Lille (France) (AFP) – Italy coach Antonio Conte congratulated the Republic of Ireland after Robbie Brady’s late goal saw them seal a 1-0 win in Lille to reach the knockout phase of Euro 2016.
The Azzurri were already guaranteed top spot in Group E coming into the match at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, allowing Conte to make eight changes to his starting line-up for the game, which was decided by Brady’s 85th-minute header.
“I got a good response from the guys who hadn’t played as much. Tonight’s game was tough, very physical, against a side that played a lot of long balls, put in a lot of heavy challenges and a lot of balls into the mixer,” Conte said.
“It was quite typical of their brand of football. The pitch definitely helped them more than us, but congratulations to them because they put a lot into the game.
“It was life and death for them. Perhaps we were punished when we were on top but congratulations to Ireland because they really wanted to go through and were rewarded.”
Italy now go on to face reigning champions Spain in the last 16 at the Stade de France in Paris next Monday.