Euro 2016: Hard to know what to expect from Italy
Business-like in qualification the Azzurri went unbeaten and topped their group by four points
Italy manager Antonio Conte will move to Chelsea after the tournamet. Photograph: Getty
Graziano Pelle was Italy’s top scorer during qualifying. Photogrpah: Getty
Old-school centre half, Giorgio Chiellini embodies the famous Azzurri culture of defence. Photograph: Getty
A largely uninspiring qualifying campaign combined with the loss through injury of stars like Marco Verratti and Cludio Marchisio have left the Italians a little downcast about their team’s prospects at the Euros, although there will still be a suspicion that manager Antonio Conte can conjure something out of the side as long as Juventus’s defence holds up. They still look very solid at the back with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini about as good a partnership as the tournament will have and if it’s a three then Andrea Barzagli is unlikely to do much to let the side down. Veratti is a big loss, though, and in his absence, Conte’s midfield options aren’t all that inspiring. Antonio Candreva’s form will be important but the biggest question mark is over the strikers with Graziano Pelle likely to entrusted with the task of delivering the goals, something he did three times in qualifying, with two of his tally coming against Malta.
How they qualified
Solid if unspectacular in qualification, easing through unbeaten to finish well head of group contenders Croatia and Norway. Consecutive draws against Norway, Bulgaria and Croatia in the middle section of their campaign may have set the Azzurri back a little but they rallied to win all of their remaining games and top the group by four points.
Manager: Antonio Conte
This will be Conte’s farewell with Italy before he leaves for the post as Chelsea manager and he looks to be taking a team to France well capable of lifting the trophy. The 46-year-old is no stranger to success having played at and managed at Juventus for 16 trophy-laden years. Conte is known as being meticulous in preparation – a Pep Guardiola-type – and hugely strict when it comes to players adapting to his philosophy. After taking over as Italy manager following the 2014 World Cup he comfortably guided them to this summer’s tournament.
Star man: Giorgio Chiellini
A tough-tackling, old-school centre half, Giorgio Chiellini embodies all of the famous Italian culture of defence. Following the retirement of the legendary Fabio Cannavaro, Chiellini has taken up the mantle of chief centre-back with aplomb. In April he won his fifth consecutive Serie A title with Juventus after returning from a knee injury which saw him miss a month of action. Now fully recovered he is set to play in his fifth major tournament with the Azzurri as Conte’s side look to go one step further than they did in 2012.
One to watch: Graziano Pelle
The Southampton striker was Italy’s top scorer in qualifying and seems to be more comfortable performing in the system employed by Conte than that of Ronald Koeman in the Premier League. Having said that, the 30-year-old still netted 13 times for the Saints this season and looks to be taking some impressive form into France.
Midfielders: Federico Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Emanuele Giaccherini (Bologna), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Stefano Sturaro (Juventus), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain).
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