Departing Antonio Conte’s Italy beaten but unbowed
Azzurri boss: ‘I had the honour of working with these people who gave me everything’
Antonio Conte’s Italy reign ended in a penalty shootout defeat to Germany in Bordeaux. Photograph: Afp
There was no winner to be found in extra-time and, after nine penalties apiece, the Azzurri were eliminated as Jonas Hector scored the decisive spot-kick.
And, after Hector tucked his effort away, Conte’s side were eliminated with the 46-year-old now ready to head to Stamford Bridge proud of what his team accomplished.
“Against a strong side, we demonstrated that this is a tough team where all our opponents respected us — and respected us a lot,” he said.
“The national team gives you emotion and stimuli and I hope this European Championship will leave a legacy, of love for the shirts we were wearing.
“I think the biggest victory for me is having worked with this group of lads. From the kit men to the cooks — everybody who was part of this marvellous experience, this is what has given me the greatest satisfaction.
“I had the honour of working with these people who gave me everything.
“When you do everything, nobody can criticise you at all and these lads went beyond the call of duty, giving absolutely everything and I think people recognise this. You love your country and the shirt you are wearing.”
While Conte is now preparing to start the next chapter of his career, his German counterpart Joachim Low continues as he looks to add the European Championships to the World Cup won two years ago.
Die Mannschaft had not missed a penalty in a shoot-out since 1982 but were on the edge of elimination after a trio of their squad failed from 12 yards.
“I had no real influence on the penalty-takers,” he said. “Every player has to make that decision for himself then.
“Our takers, one to five, were found quickly. Usually, we have good penalty-takers, even though they have not scored today.
“It was great that the youngsters like (Joshua) Kimmich and Hector kept their nerves on such a stage.
“It was a dramatic game, right up until the last shot. I have experienced something similar in 2006 in the World Cup against Argentina.
“It was a game on a tactically very high level from both teams. But we had the upper hand. Italy are strong through their centre and we denied them. Conceding from a penalty was a bit unlucky. I can’t imagine that Italy would have scored from open play.”
Low reverted to three centre-backs to counter Italy’s tactical approach and he felt it was essential to make the alteration.
“We talked about a back three. It was really necessary to change the team a little bit,” he added.
“Italy are a different side to Slovakia. They play with two central attackers and two wingers, who are playing high up the pitch. It’s too dangerous to take them on in a four versus four.
“They play from the wings into the middle, try to lay it off and then to run deep. It is easily predictable, but they are doing it well. Right after the Italy-Spain game, it was my first thought to play like this.”