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CFC

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On 23 June 2008 Spain defeated Italy 4-2 on penalties to reach the UEFA Euro Semi-finals. They went on to win the tournament that year, for the first time since 1964. In 2012 Spain won the tournament again, becoming the first team in history to successfully defend the title.

In 2016 Spain’s run of European success came to an abrupt end after a decisive 2-0 defeat at the hands of a team that had described as ‘the worst Italian team in decades’ before the tournament began.

How can the ‘worst Italian team in decades’ defeat a decidedly strong and competitive Spain? Two words: Antonio Conte.

Antonio Conte

The incoming Chelsea boss has shown that good management and emphasis on team-play more often than not trumps a team of superstars. We saw it with Leicester City under Ranieri this year, we saw it with Iceland’s 2-1 defeat of England, and we are seeing it under Conte’s Italy.

Now, that’s not to say the current Italy squad are football minnows, like Iceland and Leicester, but the current line-up of the Azzurri is a shadow of the glory years of the 1990s and mid-2000s.

Italy's 2006 World Cup winning squad.
Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning squad.

Criticised for a lack of youngsters in the squad (Italy came into the tournament with an average age of 28), robbed of some talent through injury (Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio), and criticised for some selections (Federico Marchetti over Gianluigi Donnarumma), Conte’s Italy was largely written off by the media before the tournament started. Yet, they recently defeated the European Champions and head into a game against the World Champions, Germany, having conceded zero goals so-far this tournament.

Conte’s style has been instrumental in Italy’s success, and it’s something Chelsea fans should look forward too. There was a moment in the second half against Spain which showed exactly what Conte’s philosophy is as a manager. An Italy interception fell to the feet of Emanuele Giaccherini in Spain’s territory, but poor control sent the ball towards Conte. It was a small error, but Conte was visibly incensed at the missed opportunity. Throughout the tournament Conte has been vocal. So vocal in-fact he can often be heard on commentators microphones screaming in Italian (avanti seems to be his favourite word).  In short, Conte is intense. He expects his players to give their all on the pitch and expects nothing less than 100%.

UBut intensity alone doesn’t win you matches. Italy have been technically skilled and very, very well organised, especially in defence – a feature that has been synonymous with Chelsea in seasons past. The 3-5-2 system offers flexibility in defence and attack, however it does work the midfielders extremely hard. Spain struggled to break Italy down, but at the same time Italy never over-committed at the back. They were able to move from solid defensive play to threatening attacks in an instant.

Italy's 3-5-2 formation.
Italy’s 3-5-2 formation.

Italy also had a very clear game-plan from the get-go, unlike certain teams (cough…England). Recognising how much of a lynchpin Busquets is to the Spanish side’s fluency, it is clear Conte instructed Pelle and Eder to close him down at every opportunity, and that’s exactly what they did. Stifiling the Barcelona man’s passing ability and preventing Spanish attacks from gaining any momentum. Resting 8 of Italy’s players in last week’s match against the republic of Ireland also meant the Azzurri had enough gas in the tank to run Spain ragged for the full 90minutes.

In essence Conte has been the manager Italy needed for this tournament. Even if they go out to Germany in the quarter-finals, Conte has shown Italy can succeed even with the apparent decline in world-class talent.

Conte’s intensity, technical mind-set and well thought-out game plans are all reasons for Chelsea fans to get excited in a season where the Premier League will be saturated with world class managers.

For Conte, however, his focus is still with the Italy who face a very strong World Cup winning Germany this week.

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One of the biggest humiliations for England in an international tournament: Hodgson and his boys are sent out from the euros in France by Iceland, surely the sensation of these EURO 2016.

The match seemed on the right path for the Three Lions after 4′, when Wayne Rooney netted a penalty gained by Raheem Sterling, but not even three minutes later the Icelandics equalise with Ragnar Sigurdsson, with England showing a very poor defense ( Chelsea‘s Gary Cahill was among the starters as usual).

Other 13′ minutes and the match and qualification were sealed, with Kolbein Sigthorsson trying a shot from outside the box that an embarrassing Joe Hart wasn’t able to stop.

England had just two clear chances to equalise, with Harry Kane in the end of the first half – his volée was inches high on the crossbar- and with Jamie Vardy in the end of the injury time in the second half: his header was deflected on corner by an Icelandic defender.

The Thee Lions coach Roy Hodgson resigned at the end of the game: U21 coach is the favourite to replace him in this moment.

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A miracle, they are saying in Italy: next Chelsea boss Antonio Conte trashes Spain at EURO 2016 and qualify for quarter finals, after the Azzurri were tagged as the underdogs. They will face the World Champions, Germany, on Saturday night.

No one was expecting such good performances for them, especially because the 23-men-squad is not at the same quality level of some Italy had before, but Conte’s team are recognizable for personality and group cohesion, in addition to tactical organization.

Combine it with an excellent physical form ( Italy is the team that covered more KMs in the whole tournament) and you get what the Azzurri are deserving: great results and great performances.

A iron-clad win over Spain, with Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea that saved his team from first half humiliation with, at least, three, miracles.

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas started for La Roja, playing all 90′, but his performance was really poor, as he couldn’t help his team to find a way to the goal.

Giorgio Chiellini scored on a tap-in following a De Gea’s save on Eder‘s strong free-kick, and after taking some risks –Buffon showed all of his skills in at least three occasions- in the second half, with Spain desperately trying to equalise, Southampton striker Graziano Pellè sealed match and qualification at minute 91, with Conte jumping on the bench’s roof to celebrate.

A good news for Chelsea fans, that will have a very motivated head coach at the beginning of his Blues adventure: you can bet we will more attributes at Stamford Bridge next year.

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BABA RAHMAN

Chelsea left-back Abdul Rahman Baba has been targeted by Lazio, according to the Daily Mirror.

The 21-year-old is a main target for incoming Lazio manager Marcelo Bielsa and Chelsea have reportedly already received a £12m bid for the Ghana international, who joined the Blues for £19m last summer.

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Chelsea have recently placed a £32m bid for Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan, says La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The Serie A club have reportedly rejected the Blues’ offer as they are keen on keeping the Belgium international at the Stadio Olimpico next season.

It is understood Chelsea will make another move to sign Nainggolan, probably in August, when Roma are going to play their Champions League play-off.

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AXEL WITSEL

If Chelsea will fail to sign Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan from AS Roma, they will try to focus on his national team mate Axel Witsel (27).

The ex Benfica star is set to leave Zenit Saint Petersburg after 4 seasons and it’s already targeted by Juventus, Inter, AC Milan and Napoli, as well as Giallorossi themselves and Stoke City.

Still on a deal with Russian club until June 2017, Witsel might leave for an offer around €23/£17.5m .

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Ex Chelsea manager Andre Villas Boas has been targeted by AC Milan to replace first team coach Christian Brocchi, who asked to leave his job yesterday to be able to join Brescia, in the Italian Serie B, and that started to work at the club only in January, when former coach Sinisa Mihajlovic was sacked.

Milan are in a very delicate moment of their history: the financial situation is not good and the long time chairman, Silvio Berlusconi, has been looking for a group of new investors outside of Italy, especially in China, to sell the club but had no luck until now.

The Italian side, that won seven Champions League, also failed to qualify for any European competition in the last three years and the situation is very unstable.

Signing a young and valid manager like Villas Boas they would try to improve this delicate situation and it should a good chance for the Portuguese coach as well, after failing his first experience in a big international club like Chelsea and three years in the Russian championship with Zenit St Petersburg.

 

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AC Milan have joined the race with Chelsea and Arsenal to sign in-form Everton and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku.

The Italian club have recently been taken over by Chinese investors and it is thought that they will have a significant cash injection into their transfer funds to help lure the 23-year-old away from Goodison Park.

Chelsea have been keen on bringing Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge once more with their top striker Diego Costa unsure about his future.

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Chelsea are reported to be making a third bid for Roma and Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan.

The Blues have already had 2 offers rejected by the Italian club but Antonio Conte is determined to bring him to Stamford Bridge for next season.

The Mirror reports that Roma are looking for at least £31m for the 28-year-old.

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