Italy boss Conte pleased with seamless formation shift

Reuters , Saturday 13 Jun 2015

Antonio Conte (Photo: Reuters)

Italy coach Antonio Conte praised his injury-hit team for a smooth shift to an adventurous 4-3-3 formation in Friday's 1-1 draw at Croatia in their Euro 2016 Group H qualifier.

With several key players out injured, Conte had to revert from a preferred 3-5-2 and the Italians held the upper hand for long spells in the match played behind closed doors in Split.

"The 4-3-3 allows us to exploit space out wide with the best wingers that the Serie A currently has to offer," the 45-year old coach told the Italian football federation website (

"We had a well defined style of play and although we can still revert to the old formation, I think this one will be a success in the future."

Antonio Candreva, who scored Italy's equaliser with a dinked penalty, gave his markers a roasting on the right flank all evening and Stephan El Shaarawy also had a fine game on the left behind lone striker Graziano Pelle.

Shaarawy had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside seconds before Mario Mandzukic's opener for Croatia and Conte blasted English referee Martin Atkinson for allowing the home side to restart play with the visitors celebrating in vain.

"We were a little bit naive but we were sure that our disallowed goal was good and as a matter of fact it was good," he said.

"So when Croatia took the lead immediately after it was a big shock and the referee should not have allowed them to restart play while we were still celebrating."

With Mandzukic missing an early penalty and giving away the spot-kick to Italy, Croatia had little to cheer about after the game as it also produced a bizarre racism scandal.


A swastika cross imprinted into the grass of Poljud stadium through a chemical agent by still unidentified perpetrators days before the kickoff became visible during the match, which was played behind closed doors for earlier offences by Croatian supporters.

Croatia had been handed a one-match ban for racist chants by their fans in a 5-1 home win over Norway in Zagreb in March, which came on the back of incidents they caused in a 1-1 draw against Italy in Milan last November when they hurled flares on to the pitch.

The swastika incident left Croatia's players fearing drastic punishment from governing body UEFA after the result left them top of the section in Group H on 14 points from six games, two ahead of Italy and four more than third-placed Norway.

"Of course we discussed it and we can only hope that UEFA will show us some mercy," defender Domagoj Vida was quoted as saying by Croatian media.

"We regret what happened but as players we can only do our job on the pitch."

The Croatian Football Association (HNS) issued an apology to the Italians and both sets of fans watching the game on television while also condemning the incident.

"This is sabotage and a felony, hence we expect police to identify the perpetrators and we have also notified UEFA," HNS spokesman Tomislav Pacak said.

"It is a disgrace not just for the HNS but for the whole of Croatia."

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