Conte: England ‘a top side’

Date published: Wednesday 1st April 2015 8:46

With the Azzurri comfortably on top in the first half, Southampton striker Graziano Pelle opened the scoring with a glancing header, but England improved after the break and secured a draw through a fantastic strike from substitute Andros Townsend.

Due to a mixture of injury problems and selection decisions both sides were much changed from their clash at last summer’s World Cup, where Italy outgunned England 2-1 in Manaus to send Roy Hodgson’s side on their way to a disappointing group-stage exit.

Conte took charge of the national side in the wake of Cesare Prandelli’s post-World Cup resignation and, having fielded an inexperienced side that included Empoli debutant Mirko Valdifiori, was satisfied with his side’s efforts against England.

“Today it was prestigious friendly against a side with some top players, but we competed well and I’m happy with our performance,” said the former Juventus midfielder.

“Ultimately it was a fair result, because we struggled a little more in the second half.

“But we’re still working to help this squad grow. There are a lot of young players here but thankfully their experiences in their respective leagues has shone through.

“The Italian national shirt means a lot to them and nobody can deny that.

“It was a fair result,” Conte added. “We were playing against a top side with very good players. We must not forget England had won seven matches [in a row] before they came here.

“It’s a shame (to concede the equaliser) because we had a lot of chances against a good England team.

“Nevertheless, I’m pleased because I got answers from all the players, both the ones that played the full 90 minutes and others, such as (Mirko) Valdifiori, who played only 60.

“We still need to continue to work hard in order to allow the players to develop and be ready at international level. We need them to gain confidence for them to get even better.”

Goalscorer Pelle, who has failed to find the net for Saints since the turn of the year after a promising start to life in England, was understandably relieved.

The 29-year-old said: “I felt good today and the manager gave me the opportunity. Those that play always have to prove themselves to the coach.

“I played alongside Eder at Sampdoria and we understand each other well. I’m happy to have scored and to have been given another chance by the manager.

“I wanted to score another but unfortunately it didn’t happen.”

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