Italy coach Antonio Conte says his side ‘can do great things’ after his Italian side laid down a marker against Belgium on Monday evening.
Goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and a late blow from Graziano Pelle ensured a comfortable win for the Italians in their Group E opener.
‘I’ve been repeating from the beginning – and I’m not one to tell lies – that this is a group first and foremost of men, and then of footballers.’ Conte said after the match.
‘That’s important because in a tournament like this you need an alchemy of people who get on well together, and the biggest satisfaction for me tonight is to see how happy they all were, including those on the bench.
‘There’s a very good spirit in this squad.
‘Having said that, we’ve got to be happy today, a bit happy tomorrow and then we have to prepare for Sweden because the memory of two years ago is still fresh, when we did well against England and then lost [to Costa Rica in the group stage]. That’s a wound which remains in the minds of our players and fans.
‘We have big intentions and our objective remains the same, to get into the last 16. The objective is to get where we deserve to be, without any regrets. I think the fans are pleased when they see 23 players giving everything on the field and being willing to spill blood.
‘I cannot deny that I was very, very emotional today – to be coach of a country in such a big tournament doesn’t happen every day. It’s something special for the lads to wear this shirt, but I’d like to say also that with this unity of intention, we can do great things.’
Italy next face Sweden, who drew their opening match, on Saturday.
The match kicks off at 15:00.