Italian football journalist Francesco Archetti has been covering Italian and German soccer for more than two decades. He’s not so sure Italy will maintain their great record against a strong German side.
DW: Francesco Archetti, how do the media and public back home see this Italian team, from which not much had been expected going into Euro 2016?
Francesco Archetti: Now they are seen in a good light, particularly since the win over Spain. It’s just like in every other country; when you win you are a superhero. The start of the tournament wasn’t that good. We had a lot of injuries, there are a lot of stars who aren’t here, who couldn’t be here to help the team. However, now it is a real team and not a collection of stars. This has been the key to their success here.
Is Antonio Conte largely credited with the success of this edition of the Squadra Azzura?
Sure, although he is probably more of a club manager than a national team manager. He already had an excellent reputation with the fans of Juventus, after all he led them to the Serie A championship three years running. Those who are anti-Juve were of course always against him. But it’s pretty clear that he is the best coach in Italy at the moment.
Conte, of course left the key veteran, Andrea Pirlo, who now plays his club football for New York City FC of Major League Soccer, out of his squad for Euro 2016. Do Italy miss him?
Yes of course. They would love to have a player like that. But he is old (37), he is in the United States, so he is not on the national team head coach’s radar anymore. But it could be that on Saturday against Germany, (Daniele) De Rossi won’t be available, Thiago Motto is injured. So this means that we have no player like that.
As you know, in Germany, Italy are sort of the old enemy when it comes to international football – Italy are the team that the fans and media seem to fear most. So how is Germany viewed by the Italian football media and fans?
It’s exactly the same way in Italy.
But Italy always beat Germany when it comes to a major tournament…
Sure, but (laughs). That’s what they always say, but this can’t go on forever. But sure, this is our traditional opponent, not just anyone but out traditional rival. And in the end, yes, so far we have won every time, and we just hope it will stay that way for as long as possible.
What about the friendly that Germany won 4-1 in Munich back in March? Is there any reason the German fans should take heart from that result?
It was a friendly match. It was Italy’s second game in the space of three days. We had beaten Spain in the previous match. And in the days between those two games, the players were constantly getting phone calls from their club managers or even club presidents urging them take it easy, not to go all out in that match (against Germany). But at the same time, that was a good lesson for the Azzurri, because Germany played with a 3-man back line. So they realized that the other side too is capable of implementing new ideas.
So based on the two teams’ performances so far and their common history, will Italy be the favorites going into Saturday’s quarterfinal with Germany in Bordeaux on Saturday?
No, not Italy, Germany are the favorites. Germany are the favorites to win the tournament. Italy are the underdogs. On the other hand, in one match with a team like this, (Italy) who play so compact, and have such a strong will to win, anything can happen. But Germany are the world champions and Germany are the favorites in this tournament. Italy are the underdogs.
So what is your prediction for Saturday’s game?
I don’t want to be a traitor to my country, so I have to say that Italy will advance. What can I say? (laughs).
Milan-based “La Gazetta dello Sport” journalist Francesco Archetti has been covering Italian and German soccer for more than 25 years. He has spent the days in the run-up to Germany’s quarterfinal match against Italy in Bordeaux and reporting on the German national team from their base at Evian-les-Bains.
The interview was conducted by Chuck Penfold