Monday June 13 2016
Bonucci: ‘Italy aiming for Quarters’

Leonardo Bonucci admits Italy are “less frightening” but aims “to get to at least the Quarter-Finals”.

The Azzurri kick-off their Euro 2016 campaign tonight when they take on Belgium in Lyon, and the Juventus defender spoke to French newspaper L’Équipe.

“We’re Italy, we have to go as far as possible,” Bonucci declared.

“People are worried by the injuries to [Claudio] Marchisio and [Marco] Verratti. We feel those absences, that’s obvious.

“At the moment it’s true that we have difficulty finding pure talent. but we have to make up for that with our organisation and our hunger.

“We can’t have limits, when it gets difficult we’re always there. We know what we can do tactically, and we can cause problems for anyone. When you’re Italy you have to get to at least the Quarter-Finals.

“Italy are less frightening today, that’s obvious. If you look at the team which won in 2006, for example, with [Francesco] Totti and [Alessandro] Del Piero, or even the one which reached the final four years ago.

“These teams had international players, today we mainly have strikers who don’t play much or don’t have much experience.

“Belgium are superior, but they have their injuries too. Italy don’t produce many talents, and that can be seen in the whole system. Belgium did the opposite and it’s bearing fruit now.

“At the moment we have to learn from others.”

Despite what could be perceived as pessimistic statements, Bonucci insists the Juventus bloc will transfer their mentality to the Azzurri.

“You feel the Juve mentality every day. It’s in everything you do, and it’s contagious. We always have to win. The national team is lucky to have this Juventus bloc.

“We’re lucky that in defence we’ve been playing together for a long time. It’s up to us to help the others.

“Italy showed in 2006 that it’s important to have a strong defence. When you don’t concede many goals you have more chance of winning.

“Antonio Conte? It’s not a problem that Conte is going to Chelsea. This is the most important tournament of his coaching career, he doesn’t want to get anything wrong!

“He believes in his ideas, he takes care of all the details. And he transmits that to the players, with long training sessions.

“He gave us so much at Juve, with his winning mentality, he never gives up. He’s given so much to the national team too.

“We can’t rely on talent, so we have to be tactically perfect. I’m optimistic, we have nothing to lose.”

Finally, the centre-back was asked about Gianluigi Buffon, who will captain the Azzurri once again tonight.

“He’s the best goalkeeper in history,” Bonucci opined.

“I’m disappointed that he’s never won the Ballon d’Or, because he deserves it. He’s been at Juve for 15 years, he’s a role model, a legend.

“He’s a great player and a great man, everything he does is for the good of everyone.”

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