Italy coach Conte says Spain is the favorite
Jun. 26, 2016
SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) — To Italy coach Antonio Conte, there is no doubt that Spain is the favorite.
Of course, that doesn't mean his team can't win.
"If you look at it with reason, we will lose," Conte said Sunday, a day before Italy plays Spain for a spot in the European Championship quarterfinals. "We will need something extraordinary from ourselves, because ordinary will not be enough. And I think that the players in this group can do it."
Italy was eliminated by Spain from the last two European Championships. But at Euro 2016, Italy won a group that included title-favorite Belgium and Zlatan Ibrahimovic-led Sweden. Spain, meanwhile, entered Monday's match at Stade de France surrounded by doubts after finishing second to Croatia in its group.
"On paper, it's an uphill battle, but we want to have a say tomorrow," Conte said. "We are prepared. We have worked hard. Nothing is impossible."
Spain, however, was not taking Conte's words too seriously.
"I don't believe it," Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas said. "The truth is that they have a great team and a great coach. They think that they will advance to the quarterfinals, just like we do."
Conte praised Spain's offensive prowess but said Italy won't be only about defense on Monday.
"We have to try to make some damage when we have the ball," he said. "I've heard a lot about our defense, but we must make Spain worry about our offense because we can do well against any team. We are well organized defensively, but also offensively."
Conte likely won't be able to count on winger Antonio Candreva because of a hamstring injury. Alessandro Florenzi is expected to move into his position, with either Matteo Darmian or Mattia de Sciglio entering the squad at midfield.
Del Bosque is expected to start the same lineup for the fourth straight time.
"It doesn't make any difference which lineup they play," Conte said. "We have to worry about our game."
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni