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Conte thrilled as Éder and Italy repay faith

Published: Friday 17 June 2016, 17.15CET
"I picked these men and they are paying me back on the field, all 23 of them," Antonio Conte said after Italy qualified with a late win against Sweden: we hear from both teams.
by Paolo Menicucci, Ben Gladwell, Sujay Dutt at Stadium de Toulouse
Conte thrilled as Éder and Italy repay faith
Italy celebrate in front of their fans ©Getty Images
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Published: Friday 17 June 2016, 17.15CET

Conte thrilled as Éder and Italy repay faith

"I picked these men and they are paying me back on the field, all 23 of them," Antonio Conte said after Italy qualified with a late win against Sweden: we hear from both teams.

Antonio Conte, Italy coach
Above all there should be great satisfaction on the part of everybody because not many people envisaged us qualifying for the last 16 after just two games. Many were even doubting us going through and the fact we're into the last 16 after two games is really pleasing. The lads deserve it because there were a few anxious players out there in the first half and a few 'skeletons' [from the last FIFA World Cup].

It was certainly a struggle in the first half against a very physical Sweden who closed gaps yet we did well to attack in the right way. I think Sweden never had a shot on goal, Buffon didn't have a save to make. This proves we are starting to grow and gain that respect that only few were giving us before.

Questions have been asked of many players I picked, not only Éder. All I am interested in is picking players from what I see, not who they play for or if they are nice guys, but if they can help the team. In the last two years, I've been lucky to have Éder who was decisive in qualifying and I hope he can be decisive here too. I picked these men and they are paying me back on the field, all 23 of them.

Erik Hamrén, Sweden coach
If we look at the match I think we played very well. We defended well and we really succeeded in closing down Italy's game, but it was only towards the end that we lost a bit of concentration. The forward line played very well in the first half when we had some opportunities, but maybe we didn't hold firm enough in the last 20 minutes or create the chances we needed to. We got into the box a few times, but other than that we did struggle to create chances. The players worked very hard and it's a shame we were not rewarded.

I would be happier if we had scored some goals, of course. We are doing our best. Today we met a really strong defending team and even Belgium, who I think are a very strong attacking team, did not score against Italy. Of course we want to create more chances but I can assure you we are trying.

Zlatan [Ibrahimović] did what he needed to do in the last two matches. It was tough for him today because Italy defended very well, but we had more of the ball than we did against Ireland and of course a centre-forward needs the support of wingers, but Zlatan is one of the greatest forwards I have ever met. He's a winner and if he's disappointed, I think everybody can accept and understand that – we all are disappointed.

Éder, Italy goalscorer and man of the match
I'm happy for myself but also for the whole team because I know how hard we've worked and how carefully we've prepared for these EUROs.

Winning the first couple of games feels good, particularly because not everyone was expecting that. But we're organised, we work hard, we leave it all on the pitch and in the end we also get the result.

[The goal] was nice because it came at the end of a difficult game. We had studied Sweden, we knew they set up in a way that makes them very hard to manoeuvre against. But after all the hard work came the goal which gives us even more confidence in what we're doing. People like [Lorenzo] Insigne and [Ciro] Immobile didn't play but came to congratulate me at the end. This, I think, is also what makes us stand out.

Simone Zaza, Italy forward
We are pleased, even though we didn't match the performance level from the previous match. We have picked up three points in a tough game against a physically strong team, so we are thrilled.

[Sweden's strengths are] their physical power and the fact they were tough and ran a lot. They also have a superstar up front, one of the best strikers in the world, so they were an hard team to face. But we were better in the second half and managed to score.

It's not rhetoric to say our squad really is incredible. I remember the first match when Graziano [Pellè] scored the second goal and the referee wanted to get us off the pitch because we [the substitutes] invaded the pitch. The strength of this group is the group itself. It is obvious that everyone would like to play as much as possible, but we are here for this adventure and we would like to enjoy it until the end.

Kim Källström, Sweden midfielder
We deserved more than that result today. Football can be brutal at times. There's nothing more demoralising than conceding a goal towards the end of the game when you've worked hard for 90 minutes. It's tough to take.

[Against Belgium on matchday three] there's only a win to aim for. You don't have to be a maths genius to know that. That's what's nice about football: there's always a new game to look forward to.

Andreas Granqvist, Sweden defender
We played an excellent first half, keeping the Italians away from our goal, enjoying a lot of possession and creating chances. It's still an even match in the second half, and then they get that late goal which means we lose. 

Of course it's very bitter at the moment. We'll have to make sure we win against Belgium so we have a chance to qualify. Four points should be enough to qualify at least as one of the best third-placed teams.

Last updated: 12/07/16 17.45CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/season=2016/matches/round=2000448/match=2017956/postmatch/quotes/index.html#contes+faith+italy+repaid