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Thursday June 23 2016
What did Conte learn from Irish defeat?

Italy suffered their first defeat at Euro 2016, falling 1-0 to Republic of Ireland. Luca Cetta wonders what Antonio Conte got out of a match which included many new faces.

Given the circumstances on Tuesday evening, you would be forgiven for forgetting there was another group match to be played. Even the morning newspapers did, focusing more on the fact Italy had been dealt a tough Round of 16 draw against defending champions Spain than the upcoming encounter with Republic of Ireland.

That’s because the Azzurri had already been assured a first place finish in Group E. Not since Euro 2000 had Italy faced a dead rubber contest at a major tournament. It’s atypical for the four-time world champions, who always seem to scrape by. Gianluigi Buffon admitted Italy winning the group with one match to spare “is not normal.”

And the Azzurri, much changed from the victory over Sweden, played like a side with nothing on the line. Even with Antonio Conte’s insistence his side was in Lille to win, his eight changes from last Friday told its own tale.

Salvatore Sirigu, Angelo Ogbonna, Thiago Motta, Federico Bernardeschi, Stefano Sturaro and Ciro Immobile all made their first start of Euro 2016, second half substitutes Lorenzo Insigne and Stephan El Shaarawy their tournament debut. It wasn’t an inherently bad decision to make changes. If ever there was a time for Conte to take a look at his squad players, this was it.

But unlike Croatia B – the ‘reserve’ side which topped Group D to send Spain on a collision course with the Azzurri – Conte’s new boys could not exhibit the same confidence their neighbours to the east displayed in downing the previously impressive Spanish.

The Irish were playing for their tournament lives. A win and progression was theirs. They harassed Italy. Balls were whipped into the penalty area at will. It led to battle after battle. Ireland’s intensity was impressive and Martin O’Neill’s team had the better chances throughout.

Meanwhile, Italy did not find much joy in the final third. Nor did they get a foothold on proceedings until well after half-time. The introduction of Matteo Darmian and Insigne helped shift the balance in their favour. But Italian passing was poor, even allowing for the chopped-up pitch. The strikers had little to work with as those behind could rarely fashion an opportunity.

The question is, did Conte get enough from the new brigade? He says yes. “I got some good responses from those who haven’t played as much.” There just wasn’t much. Insigne did well when he came on and nearly broke the deadlock with a curling shot – similar to Eder’s goal against Sweden – that cracked the post. Simone Zaza put himself about, but he and Immobile fed on scraps. Ogbonna was the best of the defensive bunch.

One player who wasn’t rested – and given his yellow card situation should have been – was Leonardo Bonucci. Captain in Buffon’s absence, he didn’t enjoy the most comfortable evening. The yellow card hanging over Bonucci’s head could not have helped. But when it came to Robbie Brady’s 85th minute winner both he and Sirigu share the blame. Bonucci lost his man. The Paris Saint-Germain custodian failed to attack the cross with any real commitment and was beaten to the ball. The goal resulted in Italy’s first competitive loss under Conte. Fortunately, Bonucci did not pick up a second caution of the tournament.

The word emanating from the squad is Monday will be different. Conte believes his players will be up to the task. “Playing against Spain must give us a great deal of enthusiasm and we have to play like we did against Belgium, against a side that on paper is superior.” They agree. Motta and Insigne say Italy are confident. Sirigu thinks there will be greater mental preparation for a match of this magnitude.

Did Conte get what he was after? There were bits and pieces. As against Sweden it was a performance that raised more questions than answers, even if it's difficult to judge an Italian side with little to play for. Only Insigne’s outing could tempt the boss into making a personnel change against Spain. Others fell short. In the grand scheme, the Azzurri went in knowing first place was sewn up. That allowed for experimentation, but what Italy must ensure is that their confidence is not shaken by this defeat.

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Have your say...
@ALDINO EVERYTHING IS DOWN TO DETAIL,,,SO SAYS GIACCHERINI`S QUOTE on footballitalia today after ITALY`S WIN,In which he and the team discussed during this week, prior to todays game., CONTE`S perception of every game is down to ABSOLUTE DETAIL.THEREFORE Detail did win us the game against SPAIN. And just to put it out there CONTE`S preffered system formation is 4/2/4.OH AND @ANONYMOUS SPAIN 5 ITALY 1,,,DUDE WHERE`S THE FAITH.IN CONTE WE TRUST.Forza Azzurri.,
on the 27th June, 2016 at 8:55pm
Conte! did not learn anything and will never learn anything. today Spain 5 Italy 1
ciao ...
on the 27th June, 2016 at 10:48am
@Calcioking Lets not get dragged down by unessential details. Both 343 & 334 that Conte used are variables of the 352 formation when flexed. Conte simply doesn't trust the actual formations enough to use them. Of course he could use a 3421 but he won't because he only trusts one formation which is 352 and it may look differently under different circumstances but essentially it remains a 352. The players on the bench that actually bring speed and creativity don't fit in the 352 formation at least not in the way Conte wants them to fit and thus remain on the bench unless his hand is forced.
on the 27th June, 2016 at 5:55am
@ALDINO not to mention at this level the players Conte has at his disposal surely do know how to play at least 2 formations rightfully so. Pretty much the players of the squad plays the 352 in seria A...
on the 26th June, 2016 at 7:11pm
@ALDINO Conte played 3 formations against BELGIUM,,,3/5/2 ALSO 3/4/3 ON MID BALL POSSESSION AND 3/3/4 ON THE COUNTER OR WHEN IN ATTACK MODE WHEN KEEPING PRESSED IN THEIR HALF ZONE.So INSTEAD OF FIDDLING WITH 3 FORMS IN ONE GAME,Play 3/4/2/1 where your 2 supp strikers can track back quicker when being countered causing the opponents to deal with a 6 man midfield which WE ALL KNOW WOULD CUT THE BLOODLINE OF SPAINS BALL RETENTION DOWN THE MIDDLE,Causing ITALY to counter with 3 on the counter better
on the 26th June, 2016 at 7:08pm
Nothing. An idiot is not capable of learning. You saw that in Europe when he coached Juve. Conte left Juve because they started questioning his decisions and he couldn't stand this. The Romance at Chelsea will be very short if he remains the idiot he is.
on the 25th June, 2016 at 4:01am
Candreva will miss the match with Spain, of course.

Rather than the stupid Motta, he could have called up Pirlo to knock it around for the last 20 - 30 minutes.

Good luck, Conde (at Chelsea, that is!)
on the 24th June, 2016 at 4:52pm
@calcioking Conte has only two formations 352 and 433 and as we could tell by the Ireland game he doesnt trust the 433 enough to use it.

Insigne doesnt fit the preferred 352 formation so will have to wait until Conte is forced to switch to a 433 but i think there are more players on the bench by sides insigne that are not suited to the 352 formation.
on the 24th June, 2016 at 2:08pm
@frank

Giovinco is better than insigne????? WTF, lol
on the 24th June, 2016 at 1:54pm
It's unfortunate that in order for the Azzurri to have any chance in this tournament they will have to play cattenaccio. Spain and now Germany have recently shown that possession football is the only way to win these tournaments. Sure cattenaccio can win you a game or 2, but it can't win you a tournament.
on the 24th June, 2016 at 8:59am
CIAO AMICI!
with all do respect to everybody i think conte knows much more than all of us!
in the meaningless game who should have played PELLE/DEROSSI
BUFFON players who are very important to us?
by playing Motta we were able to rest DEROSSI/CANDREVA.....
BONUCCI was played because we did not wanted to concede a couple of goals also to make harmony between the defense line
with OGBONNA in case we lose b/c to 2nd yellow cards!
we will see INSIGNE in the game if we do not score early!
on the 24th June, 2016 at 5:03am
3/4/2/1.....BUFFON ofcourse, BARZ,BONN,CHIEL obvious reasons, CANDREVA,PAROLO,DEROSSI,DARMIAN, for ball possession and defensive instincts, INSIGNE,ELSHARAWAY for 2 support strikers and creativity, EDER for clinical finishing....AGAINST SPAIN.
on the 24th June, 2016 at 1:19am
3/4/2/1.....BUFFON ofcourse, BARZ,BONN,CHIEL obvious reasons, CANDREVA,PAROLO,DEROSSI,DARMIAN, INSIGNE,ELSHARAWAY for 2 support strikers and creativity, EDER for clinical finishing....AGAINST SPAIN.
on the 24th June, 2016 at 1:15am
Well said Di rocco.
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 11:37pm
CIAO AMICI!
we will see a very different team against spain we do not mind if PERSIC says we are lucky not to face them!
we will see if they can beat Portugal!!!!!
we have already broken the taboo with spain!
spain that we lost to had VILLA/TORRES/ALONSO now without them and hopefully not putting CASILLAS in the place of DE GEA we have a great chance to beat them!
ITALIA will fight to the end!
please believe in CONT&AZZURRI!
FORZA AZZURRI!
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 10:56pm
Conte's either a genius or complete nut! Belgium masterclass followed by indifferent Sweden and bizarre ROI (if you're going to rest players, rest the ones on a yellow card!). How could Bonucci play with the yellow card hanging over him? It was so unfair to him. Then Barzagli picks up a yellow and now he's got to watch his step! I'm sure we can take France in the semis but can we knock out Spain and Germany in consecutive games? Now Conte will really have to be a genius to pull that off.
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 10:35pm
I dont think the loss is an issue, the isssue is the way we lost. When a country like Croatia which by the way isnt that old nor are they famous for winning any major tournaments tells you that you are lucky not to face them shows you how little respect you get. Sad thing is for all his worrior like demeanor during the Ireland match there was no worrior spirit present from Conte or his selection of players
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 10:14pm
Amici, When has Italy ever taken a meaningless game seriously? I think you will find the answer is never. Mentally it is not possible. The comments about some of the squad members being poor quality are ridiculous. Ogbonna has had a fantastic season at West Ham, Bilic is no mug. He played very well against Ireland. The pitch was shocking and the Irish went through Italy in every challenge.

Conte will turn over Spain with the 352, so would have Prandelli had he not lost his mind in the final.
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 9:56pm
@ Jake - What young players are you referring to? Stuaro is garbage and not one person has ever wanted him in the team. Ogbonna is not a youngster, nor is Sirigu. Florenzi was played completely out of position, and Immobile can hardly be considered a youngster at this point. The younger players we want to see are Insigne, SES, Berrardi, Baselli, Jorginho, etc. Insigne looked great when he came on as did SES out of position.
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 9:47pm
OMG !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Football Italia News -

"Candreva misses training again
Antonio Candreva has once again trained separately for Italy, making him a doubt for the Spain game."
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 7:52pm
Young players showed zero heart or grinta. It was a chance to prove that they belong in the NT but they showed nothing.
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 7:51pm
Well, there you go. Haters wanted the young players to play and do you see what happened? Young punks running like headless chicken and beaten by mediocrity like Ireland. Next time think before you open your mouths, haters.
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 7:48pm
As an Azzurri supporter ... on a lighter note ... the ROI win was good in the sense that France will get a tougher opponent they have faced yet ... also giving the Irish chance to avenge ... the Thiery Henry Hand which denied them World Cup ( 2010 If I remember correctly) qualification ... !!!
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 7:45pm
@Roberto baggio
I was wondering when you would cruel out the wood work! Come on here claiming to be the god of footballing knowledge and call people a 'troll' for highlighting what the whole of Italy see but you don't! Change your name, Baggio is a great you are tool! Like i said the other day the REALITY is this team isnt good enough and Conte is not cut out for this job. His 23 man squad is terrible and the fact insigne and SES have been given 15mins is utterly ridiculous. Send him packing!
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 6:58pm
I understand the sentiments of most on here as Italy have been shocking with the ball. The defence is the best by a long way in this tournament and it will help Italy go as far as their talents deserve. The only thing that absolutely baffles me is I have no idea what Sturaro is doing in the squad. I have been watching Italy since 1990 and I cannot think of a worse player on an individual basis. I admit I have not seen too much of him but I just cannot make out what his quality is.
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 6:07pm
.... says it all really!
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 5:42pm
Changing faces much? I am not allowed to support the Azzurri. You should not comment yet there really is a 40% chance to win against Spain, ok 35% realistically but far from impossible. Very much so looking forward to this game.
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 5:14pm
@Jenks

Leaving Giovinco behind was a huge mistake by Conte. He is better than Insigne at finding and creating space and also has a great shot.

He was a menace in the last few games he played with Italy in the qualifiers. The game changed when he was subbed on.
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 4:46pm
Conte should stay in London for the rest of his career, as Prandelli stays out of Italy along with Nogoal-atelli.

The simple fact is this squad does NOT have a midfield, which is the core of a good team.

1. Bonaventura
2. Gabbiadini
3. Giovinco
4. Pirlo (yes, even with 20 mins of play he would give the goods)

All missing. And why Eder over Pavoletti??

Signed,

So sick of this
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 3:56pm
Why is Sturaro on this team? He barely plays for Juve. Why did he start before Insigne and the Pharoah? I also just realized Conte had to play Bonucci because he has only Ogbonna as a sub central defender. He chose too many similar players Darmian De Sciglio Florenzi. If Any of the BBC get another yellow we will have to play Ogbonna. Acerbi or Astori should have been on this team maybe for Sturaro?
on the 23rd June, 2016 at 3:01pm

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