sport

Conte hails Italy's efforts

Antonio Conte was pleased with the battling qualities displayed by his Italy side in their 2-0 triumph over Netherlands in Thursday's friendly.

In his first game in charge of the national team, the former Juventus tactician watched on at Bari's San Nicola stadium as the Azzurri took a 2-0 lead after 10 minutes played thanks to goals from Ciro Immobile and Daniele De Rossi.

The Italians handed a solid performance in their first match since their early elimination from the World Cup in Brazil.

"Besides the result, I was interested in seeing how my players would respond," Conte said to www.figc.it. "It was certainly a positive performance in terms of effort and aggression.

"We had six intense training sessions in order to to give the players a tactical introduction. These players want to do well.

"There is a mix of experienced players and youngsters that can eventually become important players.

"I believe this team can go far."

Conte, who left out Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli of his first squad selection, earned much praise for playing debutant Sassuolo striker Simone Zaza from the start alongside Borussia Dortmund forward Immobile.

Zaza earned the penalty which De Rossi converted and proved the ideal partner for Immobile.

"We had never played together," Zaza said. "But we understood each other very well on the pitch and this is a good sign for the future."

Conte was satisfied with his attacking options.

"I am not surprised by the synergy between the two (starting) strikers," Conte said. "I thought Mattia Destro and Sebastian Giovinco also worked well together."

Conte hopes Thursday's win will be the first of many.

"The road is long but these are games that give you confidence," he said. "Wins allow you to win.

"Now we must recover and prepare for Tuesday's match at Norway."

The Azzurri begin their Euro 2016 qualifiers in Oslo next week.

"I expect a battle," Conte said. "Norway is a very difficult rival."

Former Torino striker Immobile, who was last season's top scorer in Serie A with 22 strikes, was thrilled to have opened his goalscoring account with Italy and is set to start against Norway.

"I'm really pleased to have finally scored my first goal with the national team and I hope there will be plenty to come," he said. "The game went well, just as we had planned and we were really focused.

"Conte demands a lot from his players but this is justified when you wear such an important jersey like this one is."