Calm before storm? Azzuri engage with fans at training session

  • AFP, Montpellier
  • Updated: Jun 10, 2016 13:08 IST
Italy's players train during a practice session in Montepellier. (Reuters Photo)

Gianluigi Buffon and his Italy teammates threw footballs to enthusiastic fans and stayed to sign autographs after their first full training session at their Montepellier base on Thursday.

Following their late arrival on Wednesday, Italy coach Antonio Conte had his players up early for a 10:30am (0830 GMT) training session at the training ground of French Ligue 1 side Montpellier.

After a gentle warm-up, the Azzurri went through a series of passing drills before treating fans to a vibrant practice match that ended with several players throwing balls into a thankful crowd.

Montpellier are one of the few towns hosting two teams in France this summer, with Switzerland also staying nearby.

And the town’s mayor, Philippe Saurel, is hoping both teams add a certain flavour to celebrations this summer.

“We’re very happy to be hosting two teams for Euro 2016,” Saurel told AFP as he sat in the stands among local dignitaries and members of the Italian football federation (FIGC).

“We have historic ties with the canton of Basel (Switzerland) and on July 4 I will officialise Montpellier’s twinning with the magnificent city of Palermo in Sicily.

“I want to say a big thank you to the federation and to the coach (Antonio Conte) for choosing Montpellier.

“We have a fairly big Italian population here and I hope for the duration of the Euro the town will have a particularly Italian flavour.”

Italy, who lost the 2012 final 4-0 to Spain, have failed to get past the first round of the past two editions of the World Cup and face a tough battle to qualify from Group E.

Labelled the ‘Group of Death’, it includes Belgium, ranked number two in the world, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

Italy begin their campaign against Belgium in Lyon on Monday.

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