Italy's midfield worries piling up ahead of Germany clash
MONTPELLIER, France (AP) Italy coach Antonio Conte has some fresh worries over his team's midfield ahead of its European Championship quarterfinal clash against Germany on Saturday.
Daniele De Rossi, a veteran of the triumphant 2006 World Cup side, is a doubt after picking up a thigh injury in Italy's 2-0 round of 16 win over Spain on Monday. The 32-year-old has missed both training sessions since.
''We are doing everything to get him back but time is running out,'' Italy doctor Enrico Castellacci said Wednesday. ''We don't want to make premature conclusions even if we know how close the match is.''
An additional problem for Conte is that De Rossi's replacement against Spain, Thiago Motta, was shown his second yellow card of the tournament and is suspended for Saturday's match in Bordeaux. And Antonio Candreva, who has missed the past two matches with a groin injury, will also be sidelined for the clash against the world champion.
Conte's midfield worries are nothing new. Before the tournament, Claudio Marchisio, Marco Verratti and Riccardo Montolivo were ruled out through injury.
''All us 23 can do something important,'' midfielder Alessandro Florenzi said. ''We climbed a significant peak, now we have Everest.''
If history is any guide, Italy should have the edge. Germany has never beaten Italy in a competitive match. The Azzurri won 2-1 the last time the two met, in the Euro 2012 semifinal.
''You don't prepare a game saying we won the one before, we'll win the next one,'' Florenzi said. ''We went to work immediately after Spain, we watched the video and tried to find weaknesses in a team that doesn't have many.
''The facts speak for themselves, they're world champions, they've won so many matches, that's what gives them confidence. We're gaining confidence bit by bit, match after match, training after training. We know it won't be easy but we want to do it for us, for all the work we've put in.''
Little was expected of Italy as it headed into the tournament with an aging team written off by critics and described as one of the worst-ever by the media back home.
However, the Azzurri and Conte have impressed from the start, beating Belgium 2-0 and going on to secure top spot in Group E with a game to spare. Victory over Spain was also somewhat of a surprise and another upset against Germany would see Italy emerge as a genuine contender for the title.
''There's a good atmosphere,'' Italy forward Ciro Immobile said. ''The Spain match gave us extra motivation. It's not that there wasn't before, but winning against a great team always gives you confidence. Now we are facing an even stronger team in Germany. We have to train for it as well was we did for Spain.''