Conte praises ‘special players,’ as Italy beat Spain 2-0

Italy’s goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon (top), climbs to the goal’s crossbar as they celebrate their Euro 2016 round of 16 victory over Spain…yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

Italy’s goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon (top), climbs to the goal’s crossbar as they celebrate their Euro 2016 round of 16 victory over Spain…yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

A match against Germany in the quarter-finals awaits, but the Azzurri boss didn’t hold back from praising his side after defeating Spain.

After seeing Italy claim a famous 2-0 victory over Spain yesterday, Antonio Conte made it clear he always knew his players would put in the kind of performance they did.

Giorgio Chiellini opened the scoring in the first half, while Graziano Pelle fired home a late second to end the Azzurri’s run of 22 years without a win over La Roja at a major tournament.

Although a match against Germany in the quarter-finals awaits on Saturday, Conte lauded the efforts of his players after a sensational showing in Saint-Denis.

“We were extraordinary,” he told reporters after the game. “I knew these players had something special in them, something out of the ordinary.

“I said that before the game as it’s too easy to say it now. However, we now have to turn our attention to Germany because another tough match awaits us.”

Italy dominated large portions of yesterday’s match, and Conte hit back at critics who suggest the Azzurri only know how to defend.

“We showed that Italy aren’t just catenaccio,” he stated. “The best compliment I received was from Xavi, who said that Italy remind him of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

“We must enjoy this result and then start preparing for Germany, as it will be even more difficult than this match.”

Spain’s hopes of winning a third straight European championship were over after Italy exacted revenge for their defeat in the 2012 final.

Spain defeated Italy at Euro 2008, as well as thrashing them 4-0 in the 2012 final, but this time they had no answer to Antonio Conte’s men, who recorded a deserved victory.

Defender Giorgio Chiellini tapped in Italy’s opener in the first half and only an impressive goalkeeping performance from David de Gea kept Vicente del Bosque’s men in with a chance.

Alvaro Morata headed straight at Gianluigi Buffon as they looked to keep their hopes of a record third consecutive title alive, but wave after wave of Spain attack crashed against the rock-solid Italian defence.

Buffon made a wondrous save to deny Gerard Pique in the last minute of normal time and Graziano Pelle struck the final blow in stoppage time as Italy’s slick counter-attack claimed another victim.

After beating Spain at a major competition for the first time since 1994, the prize for the Azzurri is a quarter-final tie against world champions Germany, who they beat en route to the final four years ago, in Bordeaux on Saturday.



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