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Italy looking to heal 'open wound' from 2014 - Conte

Football Soccer - Belgium v Italy - EURO 2016 - Group E - Stade de Lyon, Lyon, France - 13/6/16 Italy head coach Antonio Conte celebrates at the end of the match REUTERS/Max Rossi Livepic
Football Soccer - Belgium v Italy - EURO 2016 - Group E - Stade de Lyon, Lyon, France - 13/6/16Italy head coach Antonio Conte celebrates at the end of the match REUTERS/Max RossiLivepic

By Mark Trevelyan

LYON, France (Reuters) - Italy's great start to Euro 2016 is tempered by memories of the last World Cup when they also opened with a win before crashing out of the tournament, coach Antonio Conte said after Monday's 2-0 victory over Belgium.

The Azzurri began Brazil 2014 with a 2-1 win over England but 1-0 defeats to Costa Rica and Uruguay saw them exit the World Cup at the group stage for the second consecutive tournament.

"We still have this open wound from two years ago at the World Cup," Conte told reporters after goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle fired Italy to victory over Belgium.

"Even after an excellent performance against England, we still went home after the first round of the competition."

In the build-up to this year's championships in France, Conte has been at pains to play down Italy's prospects, saying he was relying on strong team spirit to have even an outside chance.

"But now we’re here. As I've said, the players have realised in order to make waves here and achieve something, they have to do something extraordinary," Conte said.

"I hope tonight’s performance in no way satisfies the desire and thirst of my players and myself.

"It was a good performance but we’re keeping our feet on the ground. We have to keep working with the same desire."

Conte's adventurous 3-5-2 formation, with Antonio Candreva and Matteo Damian out wide behind strikers Pelle and Eder, paid off handsomely as his team sealed the win with a goal in each half.

While Belgium are now bottom of Group E, after Sweden and Ireland drew 1-1, Conte said he was not writing them off.

"This result in no way diminishes Belgium’s chances of winning the European Championship. I really believe they’re a terrific side and they’re going to go a long way in the competition."

Italy next play Sweden on Friday, with their remaining group game against Ireland.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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