Focus is on soccer, not terror as Italy prep for Spain


Fearless Alessandro Florenzi insists Azzurri minds will be on football, and not the threat of terror attacks, as they continue their Euro 2016 preparations with friendlies against Spain and Germany.

Italy host European champions Spain in Udine on Thursday before traveling to Munich to face world champions Germany on Tuesday.

The terror attacks which took place in Belgium have prompted fears the Euro 2016 in France could be a key target for terrorists, as well as suggestions some games could be played behind closed doors.

“The Euros is a competition that should be bringing joy and smiles, not fear, to the people coming to watch it,” Florenzi told media from Italy’s Coverciano training ground on Tuesday.

“All we can do is try to not be apprehensive and focus only on this.”

Italy coach Antonio Conte, meanwhile, is poring over which of his 28 squad players he should start against Vincente Del Bosque’s formidable visitors at the Stadio Friuli on Thursday.

Conte received flak for naming such a large squad, the former Juventus handler notably calling Brazil-born Napoli midfielder Jorginho and Fiorentina forward Federico Bernardeschi up for the first time while recalling Paris Saint Germain midfielder Thiago Motta to the squad for the first time since before the 2014 World Cup.

But the 46-year-old Conte was quick to justify his decision.

“These two games and the training sessions we’re doing will help me to test certain players and see whether some, like Thiago Motta, can play a role for us at some point,” said Conte, who announced last week he will stand down from his post after the tournament.

Conte is missing a key element in PSG midfielder Marco Verratti (groin), while Torino striker Ciro Immobile (thigh tendon) is also out.

Four years ago Italy upset the form book to reach the Euro 2012 final thanks to a pair of Mario Balotelli goals in a semi-final victory over Germany.

SEE MORE: Schedule of international break games on US TV and live streaming

But Balotelli, a scapegoat for Italy’s first round World Cup exit last year, remains on the Italy sidelines three months from the start of the competition.

On paper, Del Bosque’s Spain side, who thrashed Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final, should have the measure of an Italy side that, as Conte confirmed, is looking to gauge players and experiment with others.

Florenzi admits Spain are the “number one team in the world” for ball possession but said Conte has not been sitting twiddling his thumbs in the run-up to the game.

“We’re all focused on a single objective: to play well for our country,” said the versatile Roma right-back, who is likely to be used on the flanks by Conte.

“Conte’s had us working hard, yesterday we had two training sessions and we’ve been looking at videos of how Spain play and talking about how we can make it difficult for them.

“The most important thing will be to try and stop them playing, because when it comes to ball possession they’re probably the best in the world.

“But there’s no fear on our part and we’re not going to spend the whole time trying to shut them down. We hope to show our qualities too.”

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One Response

  1. Lawrence Dockery March 23, 2016

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