Having eliminated holders Spain, Italy coach Antonio Conte is quietly confident his side can pull off another major victory in Saturday’s quarterfinal against old nemesis Germany, a team he considers to be the world’s best.
Despite being considered before the tournament as having one of the weakest Italy teams in years, Conte has forged a cohesive unit and masterminded a run to the last eight after topping Group E and ousting the European titleholders Spain 2-0.
However, they will have their work cut out to overcome world champions Germany, who are yet to concede a goal at Euro 2016 and thumped Slovakia 3-0 in the round of 16.
Nonetheless, Conte is quietly confident that Italy can again prove the doubters wrong and topple a side he considers to be the best on the planet.
“We did something extraordinary against Spain,” Conte told reporters on Friday, “and tomorrow we have to do something even more extraordinary.”
“We have a lot of respect for Germany, they are the number one side in the world, but we will try and play our hand as we did against Spain.”
“We are well aware of our strengths and those of our opposition,” he added. “If you can bring together talent and organisation like they have, you have a heady mix.”
“It’s no surprise they’re world champions. They are the best team in the world.”
Despite gloomy pre-tournament forecasts, Italy have emerged as genuine title contenders after silencing their critics.
“When we started our journey we had little credibility in the eyes of the Italian press and the international media,” Conte said. “Everyone thought it was the dark days regarding talent in the Italian game.
“We’ve shown that through hard work, organisation and having 23 top players willing to work hard, we can overcome obstacles that appear difficult from the start.”
Italy have an enviable record against Germany at major tournaments, having won all four of their knockout stage meetings, including the Euro 2012 semifinal against Joachim Loew’s much fancied side in Warsaw.
“There are a number of parallels between tomorrow’s match and the previous Euros,” said goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. “On paper, the gap between the two sides could be even greater considering they’ve won the World Cup in the meantime.”
“We know there will be difficulties,” added Conte. “We’re ready to meet them head on. We need to play well to overturn the odds, they are against us from the outset.”