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Euro 2016: Four reasons why Italy will be difficult to beat

Tuesday 21st June 2016
Opinion has changed dramatically since the beginning of the Euros, as Italy are now considered one of the favourites to go on to lift the trophy, and rightly so. But should we be surprised by how the Italians have performed so far in France?

Italy were rarely mentioned leading up to Euro 2016 as a possible contender to win the competition, it was thought their current squad lacked the star quality required to challenge the top nations in Europe. However, after their performances in their opening two games we now know the Italians will be difficult to score against, and that it will take a supreme effort to eliminate them from the competition. Here are the four main reasons why Italy will be difficult to defeat during the Euros.

Defensively superb

Whilst Antonio Conte may not have the luxury of being able to call upon an array of attacking talent, his team has many strengths in other areas of the pitch, Conte will rely heavily on his goalkeeper and defence to take his side deep into the competition. We have already witnessed how good Italy are when it comes to keeping clean sheets, with two in their opening two games.
In Gianluigi Buffon, Italy possesses one of the most experienced goalkeeper's in the tournament. Buffon, at 38, has seen and done it all for his country. He may be coming towards the end of his career, but Buffon is still one of the very best in Europe between the sticks. His ability to produce saves in key moments of a game will be crucial to Italy's chances of success, as will the impressive leadership qualities that he has shown throughout his career.

Italy employs a system using three centre-backs; Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, and Andrea Barzagli. All three play for the same club side, Juventus, so familiarity between the trio shouldn't be a problem. In Chiellini and Bonucci, Italy possesses two of the outstanding centre-backs in European football, they have the ability between them to ensure that Italy remains difficult to break down, keeping clean sheets will take a side along way in any competition, and there is no better team in the Euros at doing this than Italy.

Tactically efficient

The absence of a recognised world-class striker in their midst could prove beneficial to Italy, and the Italians will become even more difficult to defeat than usual as a result of this. With no stand out attacking player to bail the side out of trouble, the focus will be on the tactics, how the side set-up, and making sure each player knows their particular role in the side.

Whilst the Italians will rely heavily on their defence, players in other areas of the pitch are also important in the system implemented by Conte. The full-backs play a pivotal role in both attack and defence. Antonio Candreva is one of the key players in the Italian set-up, he is charged with the task of keeping width on the pitch, and helping out in both defence and attack. As is the opposite full-back, usually Matteo Darmian or Alessandro Florenzi, both have started one game each so far.

The system Italy prefers relies heavily on a solid defence, hard-working full-backs, and an effective attack, but the men in midfield also have an important role to play. Emanuele Giaccherini is a winger by trade, although he has been deployed in central midfield in the opening two games of the competition. His energy to cover ground all over the pitch is a key ingredient in ensuring Conte's tactics work to full effect. The experience of Daniele De Rossi to sit and protect the centre-backs has also been a key factor in Italy's recent success.

Attack based on substance over style

The Italians don't possess the star names of previous generations upfront, they no longer have an Alessandro Del Piero or a Francesco Totti to dazzle us with their unique talent on the ball, instead, the current Italian side has a front two consisting of Eder and Graziano Pelle, a far more pragmatic attacking line-up compared with the ‘golden boys' featured in past teams.

Eder has already proven he can be a game winner, his solo effort against Sweden won the three points for his side single-handedly, he may not be one of the stand-out names in the tournament, but he has the ability to score important goals when needed for Italy. Graziano Pelle is an unfashionable striker, he sometimes looks ungainly on the ball, although, he can be highly effective. His height and power will be a key weapon for the Italians if they are to challenge for the trophy.

The combination of the front two won't set hearts racing, but the partnership between Pelle and Eder does have the potential to succeed, they have already shown they can work well alongside each other, scoring two of Italy's three goals between them so far in the competition. It's imperative that they continue to put away their chances as the tournament progresses.

The Conte effect

Italy have one of the most well-respected managers in Europe in Antonio Conte. The Italian coach guided Juventus to the top of Italian football during his three years at the club, winning the Serie A title in each of the seasons he was in charge. Now Conte has been handed a greater task, to achieve success with his national side, and guide Italy all the way to glory at the Euros.

Conte is a special manager, one that has the ability to get the most from his players, his drive and determination are expressed on the pitch by the teams that he takes charge of. The Italian players put everything into their games, and Conte is a key factor for this. The new Chelsea boss demands 100% from his player's each time they step onto the pitch, anything less will not be tolerated, and not only is Conte one of the best tactically in the game, he also has the man management skills required to take his teams to the very top.

For Italy to be able to look back on the Euros with fondness, it will be the players that ultimately have to perform, but Conte's role will be crucial. Including; the tactics he employs, the way he drives his team on from the touchline, and the confidence and determination he installs into his players before each game. In Antonio Conte, Italy have a manager capable of delivering glory to a nation.
Danny Glendenning

Passions include reading, sport, and nights out with friends. A football fanatic whose writing career began in May 2016. Now 30 years old, lives in South Yorkshire - local team is Doncaster Rovers, although heart lies with Arsenal. Contributing editor for It's Round And It's White. Current claim to fame is an interview with Ron Atkinson. Always looking for work, either editing or writing. Contact via email: Dannysg1988@outlook.com. Or Twitter: @DannySG1988.



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