Italy coach Conte hails Germany as best in world before Euro clash

Italy coach Antonio Conte heaped the pressure on Germany ahead of Saturday's Euro 2016 quarter-final in Bordeaux, calling Joachim Loew's side "the most complete side in the world."

Germany have never beaten Italy at a major finals, drawing four times in the group phase of a World Cup or European Championship and losing four knock-out games, but Conte insisted they were now favourites.

"We’re playing a very strong squad from every perspective," Conte told a news conference Friday. "They are a better side than Spain, they are reigning world champions."

Italy entered Euro 2016 with "little credibility," according to Conte but they stunned Belgium in their opening game en route to topping Group E and eliminating reigning champions Spain in the last 16.

Although he lavished praise on World Cup winners Germany, Conte is clearly not about to give up without a fight.

"We’ll need to perform well to overturn the odds, but we have worked hard," he said. "No one starts as a beaten side."

Italy are almost certainly without the injured Antonio Candreva and Daniele De Rossi is a major doubt though he returned to training Friday.

De Rossi suffered a thigh injury in the win over Spain while Candreva has not featured since the group stage due to an adductor problem.

Thiago Motta is also suspended while a host of other Italian players will miss the semi-finals should they collect another booking.

That, at least, was not a problem Conte was worrying about at this point.

"There is no tomorrow for the losers," he said. "Life will only go on for the winners."

Goalkeeper captain Gianluigi Buffon added: "It's a match where effort, blood, sweat and tears, and the emotional aspect will be pushed to the limit."

And he too indulged in some mind-games, pointing out similarities with the Euro 2012 when underdogs Italy shocked the favoured Germans in the semi-finals.

"We weren't favourites in 2012, we knew we'd need something historic to win the match," he said. "There are parallels tomorrow."

Germany coach Loew, who has a fully fit squad to choose from, said he was expecting a tough encounter.

"This week we have analysed Italy and seen their other games – they don’t have just defensive qualities but good attacking solutions too," he said.

"It’s about a balance between defence and attack – you must create chances and you must take them, because against Italy you may not have that many."

And playmaker Mesut Oezil, who netted a late consolation in the 2012 defeat, struck a more bullish tone ahead of the contest, recalling the 4-1 drubbing Germany dished out to Italy in pre-Euros friendly in March.

"We showed in the friendly game we can beat Italy," he said. "The most important thing is to concentrate on us, we have the pedigree to beat any team."

Last update: Fri, 01/07/2016 - 22:01
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