Thursday September 4 2014
Conte: 'Great Azzurri response'

Antonio Conte praised Italy for their “positive response” in a 2-0 friendly victory over Holland.

His debut on the Azzurri bench was a 2-0 win over the Netherlands, with both goals scored in the opening 10 minutes.

Italy hadn’t won a friendly game since beating San Marino 4-0 in May 2013, so the change in mentality alone was a big step forward. 

Conte is also the first Coach to win his debut since Dino Zoff in 1998.

“Aside from the result, I was interested in seeing the response from the lads and it was certainly positive in terms of effort, aggression and the ideas of football we want to bring forward,” Conte told Rai Sport.

“These players are at my disposal and want to do well, but we’ve been working together for only four days.

“Games like this give us confidence, enthusiasm and even more credibility going forward with this project.

“We are on the right track. We had six pretty intense training sessions on a tactical level and I am happy, as the lads worked hard and were eager to get stuck in.

“There are mature players here and also youngsters who can become great champions. There is a very long way to go, but as I always say winning helps you to win.”

Simone Zaza made his senior Italy debut, but immediately formed an impressive partnership with Ciro Immobile.

“We had worked on the combinations of strikers and the understanding between them, with various different options and players.

“We need to keep working, as on Tuesday we’ll play Norway who have proved themselves to be tough.”

Marco Verratti came off the bench, but as Claudio Marchisio is suspended against Norway and Andrea Pirlo injured, the PSG man is expected to start on Tuesday.

“Verratti can be the present and the future, depending on whether I choose to play him from the start or off the bench.

“We have a lot of players in that role, as De Rossi had a great game today and there’s Pirlo who can help the youngsters develop.”

Conte was asked if the team tonight was ‘special’ – as he’d said winning was not something everyone got to experience.

“More than a special team, I had special men tonight. I am convinced that with hard work we can achieve good things.”