Italy might have had to bow out at the quarterfinal stage of the 2016 European Championships, but head coach Antonio Conte praised his side for giving it everything in the tournament.
Already having two of their key midfielders — Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio — ruled out of the 23-man squad ahead of the tournament, the Italians were not expected to go very far in the Euro 2016. However, the Azzurri managed to churn out some amazing performances, defeating highest ranked European side Belgium in the group stage, and defending champions Spain in the round of 16.
The Italians were unlucky to be drawn against the 2014 World Champions Germany in the quarterfinals, and they crashed out after an eventful penalty shootout.
Conte proud of his side
The Germans completely changed their playing style for the Italy game, as manager Joachim Low switched from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-5-2 formation to tackle Italy’s style of play. Conte pointed out this aspect of the Germans’s play to show how much respect his team has earned over the course of the tournament.
“The fact the world champions changed their style of play to face us shows that they respected us a great deal. It was a hard game, for men, in all aspects,” Conte was quoted as saying on UEFA’s official website. “I’m sorry to go out like this after the lottery of penalties – and we were ahead in them until the fourth penalty – but Germany are an extremely strong side, the strongest in the world.
“We believed in this dream and we tried with our nails, our teeth – with everything – to hang on to it. We know that football can give you satisfaction, but it can also give you bitterness,” continued Conte.
The Italy boss is now set to take over as the manager at Premier League side Chelsea, who have had a miserable season in 2015/16, finishing 10th in the league. Italy’s quarterfinal exit was a heartbreaking affair for Conte, and the soon-to-be Chelsea boss said that he will not take some time off to get over the disappointment, before taking over at the Stamford Bridge.
“I’d have preferred not to have a holiday as that would have meant this adventure continuing for longer,” said Conte. “Now I take a week off, which I need to get over this disappointment, and then I start my adventure at Chelsea. I know it will be hard and stimulating, but I like these challenges.”
It was ‘necessary’ to change team for Italy, says Low
Meanwhile, Germany head coach Joachim Low revealed after the match that he had made his team practice playing the three-at-the-back system, and that it was not very difficult for the Germans to deploy the 3-5-2 formation against Italy.
“We talked about a back three. It was necessary to change the team a little bit. Italy are a different side to Slovakia. They play with two central attackers and two wingers, who play high up the pitch,” said Low. “It’s too dangerous to take them on in a 4 v 4. They play from the wings into the middle, try to lay it off and then make runs from deep. It is predictable, but they do it well. Right after the Italy-Spain game, it was my first thought to play like this.
“Right after the World Cup it was clear to me that we would have to expand our options and not play the same way all the time – or we would be found out too easily,” he continued. “We have practised and played with a back three several times, in March against Italy for instance. It was no great change for the team.”
Using their 3-5-2 system, the Germans were successful in stifling Italy’s play, as they hogged 62 per cent possession of the ball. A satisfied Low pointed out that the Italians would not have been able to score, had they not been given a penalty.
“It was a game on a tactically very high level from both teams. But we had the upper hand. Italy are strong through their spine and we denied them,” said Low. “Conceding from a penalty was a bit unlucky. I can’t imagine that Italy would have scored from open play.”
Twitter was abuzz after yet another memorable clash between Germany and Italy. As the match went into the penalties, a number of Twitter users showed a lot of respect for the two great goalkeepers — Gianluigi Buffon and Manuel Neuer.
— FC Bayern US (@FCBayernUS) July 3, 2016
— Mohammad Huzayen (@MHuzayen) July 2, 2016
— ~GOONERETTE~ (@MarianaKa2) July 3, 2016
Suprabhatam! With most countries, a penalty shoot out is a lottery; with Germany it’s a banker! Pity one team had to lose #GERITA
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) July 3, 2016
— 27❥ (@_sabriinaxo_) July 3, 2016
However, the main victim of the match on Twitter was Simone Zaza, who was brought on just a couple of minutes ahead of the penalty shootout. The Juventus striker missed his penalty after taking an uncanny run-up.
— Litris (@IssIss_) July 3, 2016
— Faisal Kurosaki* (@XpowervolX) July 3, 2016
— Weirdo from upstairs (@fireplum) July 2, 2016
— ibrahim (@usefulOidiot) July 3, 2016
Italy gave us all a few memorable matches in this tournament, which is why they earned a lot of respect from the Twiteratti.
— Troll Football (@TrollFootball) July 2, 2016