Lyon (AFP) – Belgium coach Marc Wilmots says he expects counterpart Antonio Conte to have prepared a team of “warriors” when Italy launch their Euro 2016 campaign on Monday.
Belgium come into the European Championship as the highest ranked team of the 24 in France and with lofty expectations after a 16-year absence from the tournament.
With Sweden and the Republic of Ireland also drawn in Group E, Wilmots expects a battle royal in their opening match in Lyon and says his side must get off to a good start.
“A win would give us confidence, but a defeat would shake everyone up, so we have to be on form right from the outset,” said the 47-year-old Wilmots.
“All the teams will have to work hard to survive this group and I think Italy are even more dangerous when they have their backs against the wall.
“Their coach will prepare a side of warriors and they will be ready to go the distance.”
Chelsea star Eden Hazard will captain Belgium at the Stade de Lyon with regular captain Vincent Kompany injured.
Even without Kompany’s experience, Wilmots expects his side to cope with the tag of title contenders.
“We have the tag of favourites, which might make the players nervous, but we will do everything in our power to make people enjoy themselves,” he said.