Ex-Italy boss Antonio Conte believes Italy are the favorites against Belgium but hailed Romelu Lukaku as ‘one of the best strikers in the world’.
’s battle againstBelgium
in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals on Friday,
about the Euros, insisting that the Covid-19 pandemic ‘affected’ the tournament.
It’s a special European Championship because the pandemic has greatly affected the preparation of the teams,”
Conte told L’Equipe.
“The level of some teams, even some of the favourites that have already been eliminated, was affected.
“COVID has had a dramatic effect on football. It’s normal that in the preparations of this Euros, in some cases, the coaches have preferred the individual quality.
“This is because the pandemic has not allowed us to work on the identity of the game. Some mechanisms cannot be improvised but are obtained through work.”
The 51-year-old thinks Italy are ‘an exception’ and hailed Azzurri’s manager
for his work.
Italy are one of the teams that are an exception because they have found a balance between the attack and defence, and a collective game,”
“You don’t go undefeated for 31 games by chance. Compared to my Italy in 2016, there are similarities: the most important common point is that we are talking about two teams with their own balance and their own game identity.
“Then, you can play with 3-5-2 like I did or with 4-3-3 like Mancini does. It depends on the characteristics and quality of the players, but what is essential is to always give an idea, a structure, a DNA.
“Succeeding in doing this is not easy for a coach because the time available to work with the group is limited. You have to know how to take advantage of every little moment.
“For a coach it’s very important that there’s a balance between knowing how to find the identity and managing the individualities of the players in the group.
“You have to know how to apply your ideas and add the right mentality in the team. The difference is the ability to convince the players, always be credible and honest in the relationship with them.
“This then allows you to be demanding and to be followed.
“Everyone must fight for the same goal that can only be achieved with sweat, work, concentration and motivation.”
Belgium are the first in the FIFA ranking and will be Italy’s biggest test at the Euros; however, Conte doesn’t think they are favorites against the Azzurri, mentioning his side’s victory in 2016.
Mancini’s Italy are a real and united team. There’s balance between defence and attack and everyone is fighting together,”
“I don’t think Belgium are favourites, it will be a balanced game.
“It will depend on determination and attention to detail. And then of course, it will also depend on the possibility of being able to field the best team.
“The win against Belgium in 2016? Maybe they were stronger, but we proved to be more of a team than them.”
But the ex-Inter coach praised
as ‘one of the best strikers in the world’ and believes he became better when they were working together at San Siro.
Right now, he is one of the best strikers in the world,”
Conte said about the Nerazzurri forward.
“He already had important physical and technical skills, but in these two years we have made him progress even more.
“His presence in the match, his teamwork and clarity in front of goal [has improved].