Italy headed out to France with little fanfare, but surprised Belgium and ended their Spain taboo before capitulating to Germany on penalties. Relive with Luca Cetta the highs and mostly lows from the Azzurri’s Euro campaign.
Thursday June 9 – Italy has trained at their Montpellier base for the first time since touching down last night. The city they will call home for the duration of the tournament is well known to Gianluigi Buffon – he was on the bench as Italy defeated Cameroon 3-0 at the Stade de la Mosson in the 1998 World Cup. The captain assures “Italy’s strength has always been our group.”
Among the 600 fans in attendance at the Montpellier Herault Sport Club for Italy’s morning training session is one very interested onlooker, Italian Federation President Carlo Tavecchio. He says the Azzurri are at Euro 2016 to win.
Meanwhile, Coach Antonio Conte has again defended his squad selections, which have come in for much criticism back home. “My squad? There’s nothing to clarify. I chose 23 players who have my trust, I know what they can do.”
Friday June 10 – As the tournament commences, newspapers back home urge the Azzurri on. 'Amaze us' writes La Gazzetta dello Sport. 'Italy, you can dream', says the Corriere dello Sport.
The Azzurri are preparing for Monday’s opening Group E encounter against Belgium, as they seek a first European triumph since 1968. But one player not present is Alessandro Florenzi, who left the camp yesterday to be present for the birth of his daughter Penelope.
A veteran of four European Championships, Alessandro Del Piero believes the current version can shake off criticisms levelled their way.“Considering what Conte is like, they must be working extremely hard,” he noted. “I’ve read many positive statements [by the players] and this is a good thing.”
Saturday June 11 – Italy have set their sights on Belgium’s seemingly vulnerable defence, but Red Devils Coach Marc Wilmots has claimed that will only spur on his team. “It’s good if Italy talk about our defence as a weak spot. I’ll hang the article up in the locker room so they can all see it."
Italy is set to field an attacking 3-5-2 system on Monday, which would give wide men Stephan El Shaarawy and Antonio Candreva licence to join the attack and turn it into a four-pronged frontline.
Sunday June 12 – Conte’s men trained in Montpellier for the final time before departing for Lyon. Word from the camp suggests Graziano Pelle is to be partnered in attack by the maligned Eder, but Matteo Darmian will replace El Shaarawy out wide. Meanwhile, President Tavecchio donned his training gear to join in the session and display his skills.
Having arrived in Lyon, Conte denied his team was not training to guard from potential spies, but was not giving anything away in his Press conference. “We worked hard and I am very happy. The line-up? You’ll see tomorrow…”