Euro 2016: Italy coach Conte still hammering away at his players
MONTPELLIER, France (Reuters) - Italy's famously demanding coach Antonio Conte is not letting up at his players even after they made sure of a place in the round of 16, and top spot in their group at Euro 2016, with one match to spare.
Midfielder Marco Parolo told reporters on Sunday that Conte, whose halftime tirades are part of Italian football folklore, was still hammering away at his squad and keeping them on their toes.
Italy, who are considered dark horses rather than one of the favourites to win the tournament, face Ireland in Group E in Lille on Wednesday, having already beaten Belgium and Sweden without conceding a goal.
"Even on the day after the game against Sweden, Conte has continued to hammer everyone and told us we also have to win the game against Ireland," Parolo told reporters.
"If you allow the tension to drop, then it can be difficult to rediscover the right level of concentration," he added, explaining Conte's philosophy. "His motto is that winning helps you to win and I am also convinced about that."
Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who played for three seasons under Conte at Juventus, said in his autobiography that the coach would come into the dressing room at halftime and throw bottles of fizzy mineral water against the walls in a fit of rage.
Pirlo, who is 37 and was not included in the squad for France, said that Conte's outbursts "crash through the doors of your mind, often quite violently, and settle deep within you."
Italy's squad is considered to be one of their weakest in years and Conte is trying to make up for what they lack in talent with team spirit and tactical cunning.
"Winning teams are also made up of players who, like me, make sacrifices without being noticed," said Parolo.
"We are a mix of various talents. It's an advantage for us that we are not just associated with one player.
“We want to continue on our current path, in the shadows, taking it one game at a time. Wherever we end up, it’ll be because we gave everything we had."
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Nice; Editing by Toby Davis)