Italy hoping to extend stranglehold over rivals Germany
Antonio Conte’s side confident despite missing midfield general Danielle De Rossi
Italy’s coach Antonio Conte during his side’s victory over Spain in the last 16. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images
At his first press conference in Montpellier, before a Euro 2016 ball had been kicked, Italian coach Antonio Conte told us that “the sensations are good”. If that was the case three weeks ago, rest assured those sensations now are sky high ahead of today’s quarter-final clash in Bordeaux with world champions Germany.
For most countries, a clash with Germany in a finals tournament is the last draw you want.
Yet, curiously, it may well be the Germans who slept uneasily last night as they prepare for a game with a country which consistently gets the better of them in finals tournaments – the World Cup final in 1982, the World Cup semi-final 2006 and the Euro 2012 semi-final make the point.
Yet, even if Italian confidence is buoyant in the wake of that impressive 2-0 defeat of Spain in their second- round clash in Paris, the Italians are clearly not taking this game for granted. Asked if Italy’s record against Germany is reason to be confident this evening, Napoli striker Lorenzo Insigne said this week: “No, their record speaks for itself . . . they are the current world champions and they have won so much over the years, and that means that they have great self-belief. By comparison, we are gaining in confidence, game after game.”
In the German camp, striker Mario Gomez was talking a big game in midweek, saying that Germany wanted to win this prestige clash and then go on to win the tournament.
Asked about Gomez’s comments, Ciro Immobile, a player who spent a season with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, said: “They can say what they like, we know that they’re a strong side, they’re in form. . . but we’ll see on the pitch how this plays out.”
As Italy go into this game, they face a series of problems. For a start, two normal first choice players, Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Candreva, are ruled out by injury. Secondly, midfielder Thiago Motta, the man who would have replaced De Rossi, is suspended. Thirdly, Germany have had a day extra to prepare. Are these all reasons to be worried?
“No, if you start thinking like that, you’re a loser”, replied Alessandro Florenzi.
“Those are all excuses. . . So far, we have climbed a big mountain but now we have an Everest waiting for us. . . ”