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EURO2016: Is the Italian defence capable of defying the critics?

With a depleted squad and a lack of world class attacking players, Italy will be relying on its steely defence to advance to the latter stages of Euro2016.

Injuries to midfielders, PSG's Marco Verratti and Juventus' Claudio Marchisio, means that manager Antonio Conte will rely upon the experienced, but ageing duo of Daniele De Rossi and Thiago Motta to marshall the centre of the park.

Southampton's Graziano Pelle looks the most likely to start up front. The 6ft 4in striker has scored 5 goals in 13 appearances for his country, most recently netting the winner in a 1-0 friendly victory over Scotland.

Pelle's possible replacements include Juventus' Simone Zaza, who featured sporadically for the Bianconeri this season, and Inter Milan's Eder. The diminutive striker struggled mightily since joining Inter from Sampdoria on loan in January, scoring one goal in the second half of the season, but if Conte decides to play two strikers, the 29-year-old may be the best option to play off Pelle.

Despite the troubles going forward, it is in the defence where the real strength of this Italian side lies.

Having gone through qualifying undefeated, the Juventus contingent of Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci form the most formidable defensive set up at Euro2016, and here at Tribalfootball, we believe it will carry them deep into the latter stages of the tournament.


Italy
(Azzurri)

HEAD COACH: Antonio Conte

TRIBAL'S TOP THREE: GianluigiBuffon, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini

WILDCARD: Lorenzo Insigne. The 25-year old remerged as a serious talent for Napoli last season.

Playing predominantly as a left winger, Insigne played his part in helping teammate Gonzalo Higuain break the Serie A scoring record by recording 10 assists, whilst also scoring 12 goals of his own. If he can establish the same partnership with Pelle or Eder, he may prove to be the spark that Italy so desperately needs going forward.

HISTORY: Italy won the tournament in 1968 and was runners-up at the previous tournament in 2012 as well as in 2000.


EURO OVERVIEW

There is no shying away from the fact that Italy finds themselves in the 'group of death' at Euro2016. Alongside world number two and highly talented Belgium, Zlatan Ibrahimovic-led Sweden and the rugged Republic of Ireland, Italy faces a gruelling three-game stretch to advance to the knockout stages.

The first match against Belgium will set the tone for the rest of the tournament. With the Red Devils comprised of attacking talents such as Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, Italy's resolute defence will surely be tested.

Tribalfootball predicts that the Azzurri will come through the group stage unscathed and this is when they will become dangerous.


Their most likely Round of 16 opponent, Portugal, who is notoriously hot and cold at major tournaments, and with a less than 100% fit Cristiano Ronaldo, will struggle to break down Italy.

Ditto with predicted quarter-final opponent, England, who despite having the attacking corps of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Wayne Rooney, will find it hard against the incredibly resilient quartet of Buffon, Bonucci, Chiellini and Barzagli.

The buck stops at the semi-finals where Italy would most likely face Spain. The match-up would provide a stark contrast in tactics, with Spain comfortable in ball retention and possession, and the Italians happy to let the opposition keep it and soak up the pressure. It is here however, that Spain's class, patience and clinical passing may prove to be too much for the Italians.

Speaking to ESPN, Conte stated: "It's when nobody really expects it when you tend to be able to pull something out of the hat and surprise people."

To do this, Italy will need to go back to the basics. Organisation and discipline is the key to the success of this team; two things that have proved to pay dividends for them in the past.


TRIBAL'S FINAL SAY:
Semi-finalists

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Andrew Maclean
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Andrew Maclean

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