Montpellier (France) (AFP) – Italy coach Antonio Conte calmed Azzurri hopes of a triumphant summer of football by admitting the beaten 2012 finalists will be taking a “humble” approach to their Euro 2016 campaign in France.
But Conte, speaking at the “Casa Azzurra” near their team base in Montpellier, said every one of his 23-man squad will get a chance to play in their opening three group games against Belgium, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Conte told media when asked what Italy could be expected to achieve ahead of their Group E opener against Belgium in Lille.
Using a cycling analogy, he added: “We have to stay humble, keep our heads down and just keep pedalling.”
Two years after suffering their second successive first round exit at a World Cup, while under former coach Cesare Prandelli, ex-Juventus boss Conte has huge pressure on his shoulders ahead of a move to Chelsea later this summer.
And the make-up of their group opponents doesn’t help matters — Group E has been described as one of the toughest in the tournament.
Belgium are ranked number two in the world and are expected to finish top of the standings.
Former Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the big star of Sweden’s team while Republic of Ireland are seen as an unpredictable side that, on their day, are capable of pulling off a big upset.
Conte, flanked by Italian football federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio and Montpellier mayor Philippe Saurel, added: “We can’t let ourselves be influenced by external factors. We’re focused, concentrated on working and looking to improve on all parts of our game.
“We have to be honest with ourselves and look to get the most out of this campaign.”
After limping out of Brazil 2014 following defeats to Costa Rica and Uruguay, having opened their World Cup campaign with victory over England, Conte knows goalscoring will be crucial.
But he said “creating” those opportunities is even more important, and he is ready to give all 23 of his squad a run-out in a bid to make that happen.
“More than anything, we have to create (goalscoring) chances. Scoring goals is important, but to do that you also need a little luck,” he said.
An opening session at the training camp of French Ligue 1 side Montpellier on Thursday offered few clues as to who Conte might select for Italy’s opener against Belgium on Monday.
But Conte added: “As far as my selection choices go, there’s little to say. I’ve selected 23 players and I have faith in all of them. I know what they are capable of giving me.
“We have three games ahead of us, and all of them will play.”
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