Conte says Republic of Ireland got lucky

AFP

Antonio Conte said Republic of Ireland got more than it deserved from the 1-0 win over his Italy side.

With its UEFA EURO 2016 survival on the line, Ireland found a way, with Robbie Brady scoring the winner with just five minutes to spare to book his side their place in the round of 16 and a meeting with host France.

The goal sparked wild scenes of celebration but Conte said it was hardly deserved, adding that he was happy with the response from his players.

"Congratulations to Republic of Ireland, they were rewarded. A little more than they deserved, but rewarded nonetheless," Conte said. "I saw some great responses because those who played gave everything they had. We were punished when we were on top of the game.

"I don't think we deserved to lose, a draw would have been the fairer outcome given the chances produced.

"Having already qualified, we had the option to make some changes and give a rest to those who put a lot in. Despite all that, I think we saw a side that has strengths and weaknesses but wants to keep scrapping until the end.

"The first aim was to reach the last 16. Now we have a match against one of the favourites [Spain]. Let's not forget where we started, we mustn't get above our station."

Italy's road to the final is a complicated one and if it thought winning its group would make life easier, it was mistaken.

Reigning champion Spain - which beat Italy 4-0 in the final four years ago - awaits Conte's side.

Also on that side of the draw are Germany, France and England.

"We should let the match [against Spain] excite us, just as it did against Belgium, who were stronger on paper," Conte said. "Had we not started on the front foot it would have been tough because we played a team who played the game of their lives. I know what it's like to play a game like this.

"With the draw, it's definitely odd to win the group and come up against Spain, and the winner will play Germany and then France. It's a pretty problematic road to the final.

"But that's the way it is, those are the rules."


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