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Antonio Conte

‘Open wound’ of 2014 World Cup drives Italy’s Conte

Lyon (AFP) – Italy’s Antonio Conte says the ‘open wound’ of their 2014 World Cup failure should inspire the Azzurri to success at Euro 2016 after their impressive 2-0 win over Belgium.

Goals in either half from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle saw Italy floor much-fancied Belgium at the Stade de Lyon on Monday.

Italy threw down a marker to show they plan to be a force to be reckoned with at these European championships finals.

But Conte said the Azzurri’s failure at the 2014 World Cup, where an opening win over England, then defeats to Uruguay and Costa Rica sent them home after the group stages, must inspire Italy at Euro 2016.

Italy’s head coach, who will leave to take over Chelsea after the finals, said their opening Group E win alone is not enough to make them favourites for the title in France.

But he hopes the victory will boost confidence for the coming Group E games against Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

“I don’t think a single game can change people’s assessments and we still have an open wound from the World Cup when even a good performance against England meant nothing as we still went out,” said Conte.

“That open wound from two years ago needs to burn in the players.

“They have realised that to make waves here they need to do something extraordinary, nothing ordinary.

“We are all pulling in the right direction, we want to make the last 16 and to get as far as we deserve to go with no recriminations.

“We will have tough times, but I believe that when supporters see 23 players give their all – blood, sweat and tears – they really appreciate what talent they have.

“We want to leave this tournament having given 100 percent and with no ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’ and no regrets.”

The tight spirit in the Italy camp was demonstrated when the entire squad celebrated on the pitch after Pelle’s stunning late second.

Veteran goalkeeper and Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon sprinted ran nearly the length of the pitch to join in the celebrations.

“This wins breed confidence and is pay off for the hard work,” said Conte, who also suffered a cut to his face in wildly celebrating Giaccherini’s opener.

“I hope we can continue with this great spirit.

“I really liked the attitude on the pitch and we could have doubled our lead on a few occasions.”

Despite his side’s impressive win, Conte insists Marc Wilmot’s much-fancied Belgium can still go far in the competition.

“This defeat does not diminish their chances of winning the title and I still believe they will go far in the tournament,” said Conte.

“We’ve beaten a top side tonight, so I am delighted, but I hope this game can give greater belief to the players.”

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