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Preview: Belgium v Italy

Belgium boss Marc Wilmots is embracing the pressure of expectation as Europe's highest-ranked side prepare to meet Italy, who will need to be "warriors" according to coach Antonio Conte.

Italy face a stern test against Group E rivals Belgium
Italy face a stern test against Group E rivals Belgium ©Getty Images
  • Belgium are seeking a first competitive win against Italy since May 1972
  • The Red Devils reached the 1980 final after a goalless draw with Italy in Turin
  • Italy edged the sides' contest at UEFA EURO 2000, beating the co-hosts 2-0
  • Belgium coach Marc Wilmots and Italy boss Antonio Conte played in that match
  • Runners-up in 2012, Italy have not won their opening game in three EUROs


Possible line-ups
Belgium
: Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Witsel, Nainggolan; Mertens, De Bruyne, Hazard; Lukaku.
Out: none
Doubtful: none

Italy: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Candreva, Parolo, De Rossi, Giaccherini, Darmian; Immobile, Zaza.
Out: none
Doubtful: none

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Coach quotes
Marc Wilmots, Belgium coach
A win would give us a lot of confidence whereas a loss would shake us up a bit. Italy are the most prestigious and most difficult opponents to start a tournament with, and we'll need to be in top form right from the start. I think they're even more dangerous when they have their backs to the wall. They have one of the top leagues in the world, a high level of players and a well-prepared coach who'll get them in great physical condition.

EURO 2000 highlights: Italy 2-0 Belgium
EURO 2000 highlights: Italy 2-0 Belgium

The hope we have is fantastic. When you have a national side that's had results like ours over the last four years, it's normal that people have hope. We'll have 15 or 18,000 fans here. We've given Belgium its colour back. I prefer pressure to not having people coming to watch us, and we'll need our 12th man tomorrow because there will be spells that aren't easy.

Antonio Conte, Italy coach
There are going to be 46 warriors out there, 23 of ours and 23 of theirs. You feel your country is urging you on and all of us will give that little bit more to be warriors – both them and us. It's important to be warriors and to use your head and try to play the way we have prepared over recent days.

There's little to say about Belgium – everybody can see their capabilities – and it is also all their own work to have such talented young players. Congratulations to them, because it means they've worked well on their football. They are strong everywhere, in attack and midfield, with lots of substance. At the back, they have a lot of experience. They're a great side for me, in terms of both the present and the future.

UEFA.com team reporters
Berend Scholten, Belgium (@UEFAcomBerendS)
"Everyone has to realise that we haven't won anything yet – but we're here to change that," Dries Mertens told me yesterday, underlining that Belgium must focus on their task rather than depend on the reputations of talents like Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard. Wilmots certainly has one puzzle to solve, with centre-backs Nicolas Lombaerts and Vincent Kompany out injured, and recent friendlies proved the Red Devils can be vulnerable at the back. If the pieces fall into place, however, the Belgians could show their true worth against Italy.

Immobile on 'strong' Belgium
Immobile on 'strong' Belgium

Ben Gladwell, Italy (@UEFAcomBenG)
Much has been made of Italy's defensive strength, but don't expect Conte to rely entirely on that. He was a purveyor of attacking football at the start of his coaching career with Siena and attack may be his preferred form of defence on Monday, in a bid to stifle Belgium's own forward prowess and force them onto the back foot.

Form guide (all competitions, most recent first)
Belgium: WDWLWWWWWL
Italy: WWLDDLWWWW

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Did you know?
Wilmots and Conte both played as Italy helped eliminate co-hosts Belgium at UEFA EURO 2000 with a 2-0 group stage victory in Brussels. Find out more in our extensive match background.

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