We have the best defence in Europe, says Italy's Bonucci

Reuters , Thursday 26 Mar 2015

Defender Leonardo Bonucci attends a press conference of the Italian national soccer team ahead of Saturday's Euro 2016, Group H qualifying soccer match against Bulgaria, at the Coverciano training center, near Florence, Italy, Thursday, March 26, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Italy have the best defence in Europe and the statistics prove it, Azzurri defender Leonardo Bonucci said on Thursday.

Having shipped four goals in 14 games, Italy, who face Bulgaria in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Saturday, have the meanest rearguard in Europe in terms of goals conceded in this qualifying competition and its predecessor.

With next best England having let in six goals in 12 games, Bonucci said it is clear that when it comes to shutting out the opposition, Italy are the best in the business.

"I believe so," Juventus and Italy defender Bonucci told a news conference.

"I don't want to sound boastful but (Gianluigi) Buffon (Giorgio) Chiellini, (Andrea) Barzagli and myself are the best when you're talking about international competition.

The numbers don't lie.

With Barzagli recently returning to fitness, Italy coach Antonio Conte can field the same defenders that helped him win three league titles in his previous role as Juventus manager.

"I'm very happy that Andrea (Barzagli) is back. We've been playing together forever and this helps," Bonucci said.

"Especially, when we are a back three back, I can lead them in pressuring opponents and they know that I'll be a few steps behind and help out, if they need me."

Italy visit Bulgaria on Saturday, where they have not won in five previous attempts.

"Our attitude is to try to dictate play and put pressure on them starting in their own end but we'll have to be careful as their counterattack is dangerous," Bonucci said.

Italy are second to Croatia on goal difference in Group H on 10 points and have conceded two goals in four games.

Conte, who replaced Cesare Prandelli after last year's disappointing World Cup campaign in which Italy failed to make it out of the group stage, is, according to Bonucci, meticulous in his attention to detail.

The coach has his players sit through two hours of video every morning, where he goes over past games and talks about upcoming matches.

"The boss is a very charismatic person," Bonucci said. "He prepares each game in minute detail.

"As soon as we got here he showed us our last two matches (against Croatia and Albania) and not a day went by, when he was at Juve, in which he did not have us watching recorded games.

"I believe it's very helpful to look at what you did in the past and learn from it."

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