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Conte wants Italian fans to show their pride

Football Soccer - Italy v Sweden - EURO 2016 - Group E - Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse, France - 17/6/16 Italy head coach Antonio Conte celebrates after the match with Simone Zaza REUTERS/ Vincent Kessler Livepic
Football Soccer - Italy v Sweden - EURO 2016 - Group E - Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse, France - 17/6/16Italy head coach Antonio Conte celebrates after the match with Simone ZazaREUTERS/ Vincent KesslerLivepic

By Steve Tongue

TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) - Italy coach Antonio Conte said he wants more of the team's supporters at Euro 2016 to show their pride by wearing blue shirts after they secured their place in the knockout stages with a 1-0 win over Sweden on Friday.

As the Azzurri secured their second straight win with Eder's late goal, Conte was impressed by the vast number of Swedish supporters inside the stadium in Toulouse wearing their side's bright yellow shirts.

Italy, in contrast, looked under-represented in the stadium.

"Whether our supporters are living in Italy or living elsewhere, I want them to put on a blue shirt," he said.

"When you see everyone in a yellow (Swedish) shirt, it's fantastic.

"Just a blue t-shirt if you want. There were 9,000 (Italian)fans but they were all quite dispersed.

"I want everyone to be involved."

As often happens, Italy went into a major tournament amid media criticism, which Conte believes they have now answered with the wins over Belgium (2-0) and Sweden.

"We're starting to get the respect very few people gave us," he said.

"Very few would have envisaged us making the last 16 after two matches. A number questioned whether we'd get through the group.

"It's a huge achievement."

The coach, due to join Premier League club Chelsea at the end of the tournament, did admit that Italy's performance in a dull first half had been underwhelming.

"Everyone was a bit nervous," he added, suggesting that past failures were the cause.

"They still had some ghosts from the past, which may have affected their performance.

"Occasionally I'm disappointed enough to get angry at them. The whole group including myself feels a great burden and responsibility representing the whole country, particularly at a tricky time for the country from every perspective."

Conte said that for the final group match against Ireland, he will give some game time to squad players who have not appeared much so far.

Six players on yellow cards and facing suspension if they collect another could be among those rested.

Sweden's coach Erik Hamren seemed at a loss to explain how his team, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack, can have played two games without having a single shot on target.

"Against Ireland we had some really close (efforts) and today we met a really strong team," he told reporters.

"Belgium did not score against Italy too.

"Of course we need to be better in attack if we're going to win (the last game) and I can assure you we're doing our best."

(Editing by Toby Davis)

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