Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer insists Italy can never be ruled out at a major international tournament after their 2-0 win against much-fancied Belgium on Monday.
Antonio Conte’s men have not been widely tipped for success at Euro 2016, but they began their campaign in style, as goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle secured victory in Monday’s Group E clash.
And World Cup winner Neuer – who helped Germany to a 2-0 win over Ukraine in their first match of the competition – says he would never dismiss a side who have a reputation for performing on the big stage.
“I never ruled the Azzurri out, even after our win over them in Munich [in March],” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I heard a lot of criticism, but I know they are a side that performs well at tournaments.
“You can see how compact they are tactically, how they defend, and how they continued to press forward when it was 1-0.
“I like their defence – with the three Juventus players and Daniele De Rossi – it means they close the opposition down with five players. They all move together.”
And Neuer reserved special praise for fellow shot-stopper Gianluigi Buffon, who kept a clean sheet in the first game of his ninth major tournament.
“He is still the best,” the Bayern Munich man said. “His presence, and how he encourages the side, you can see that everyone listened to him.
“He is an example for youngsters to follow.”