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Italy expect stern Group H challenge

Published: Sunday 23 February 2014, 17.11CET
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli believes the 2012 finalists will have to pay particular attention to Croatia and Bulgaria, while there was cause for optimism among Group H's other coaches.

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Published: Sunday 23 February 2014, 17.11CET

Italy expect stern Group H challenge

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli believes the 2012 finalists will have to pay particular attention to Croatia and Bulgaria, while there was cause for optimism among Group H's other coaches.

Cesare Prandelli, Italy coach
It's true that we avoided Belgium and Switzerland, but I don't think that Croatia are inferior to those two, who everybody wanted to avoid in pot two. This is not as easy a group as many could think. Croatia and Bulgaria are two potential group winners. We have faced Malta recently [in the FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign] and we know that won't be easy. Norway are a good side and Azerbaijan are improving very fast. I think it's a very tough group and we will have to prepare ourselves very well if we want to qualify.

Niko Kovač, Croatia coach
I am satisfied with the draw, but to be objective, I think Italy are the favourites in our group. The rest of the teams are also serious contenders and during the qualifyings we will need to switch between differents styles of play. It will be very interesting, but I am apsolute optimistic and thinking positively about our task to reach EURO 2016.

Per-Mathias Høgmo, Norway coach
The draw could have been better for us, [but] it could have been worse. It was an exciting draw, and at the end there were a lot of options left in the pot. We ended up with a difficult group. Croatia are among the strongest sides from the second level, and are in the World Cup finals together with Italy. There are no doubts that Italy are the clear favourites, but behind them I expect it to be very even. Historically we have had a lot of good matches with Italy, both in qualification and in final tournaments, so it is going to be very exciting. It's an exciting group, which I think will be quite tight. Of course [a 24-team final tournament] gives us good possibilities, and there will be a lot of excitement in the group until the very end.

Luboslav Penev, Bulgaria coach
The group is hard, but not impossible. The obvious favourites are Italy, a team we know very well. The other teams also have their chances. We know a lot about Italy and Malta – we played them both during the last World Cup qualifiers and we know each well. Norway are a solid side and Croatia have some world-class players. A tough draw, [but] we have a decent chance to go further.

Berti Vogts feels Azerbaijan have improved

Berti Vogts, Azerbaijan coach
You don't get any free tickets here. We are happy that we can play against Italy, and also Croatia are a big team. Both teams qualified for the World Cup, so there will be a party day in Azerbaijan [when they come]. We have improved as a team; last season, for example, we only lost three matches: twice against Portugal and in Russia. We won't make it easy for these big football nations. [Finishing third in the group] would be a dream, but in football anything is possible, and if we don't give away presents, build on what we have achieved so far and show better concentration on the pitch, then we have a small chance.

Pietro Ghedin, Malta coach
No doubt about it – we have a very tough group ahead of us. We have got to work hard and look forward. We got Italy yet again, together with Bulgaria who we met in the last World Cup qualifying campaign. Croatia are another tough opponent. All in all, these types of opponents do not give away anything away.

Last updated: 15/04/14 9.43CET

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http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/finals/news/newsid=2059950.html#italy+expect+stern+group+h+challenge

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