"Italy are more than purely a defensive team"

The Spain manager spoke exclusively to AS and analysed his side's Euro 2016 so far while looking ahead to the last 16 clash with Italy.

"Italy are more than purely a defensive team"

Vicente del Bosque gave an exclusive interview to AS ahead of Spain’s last 16 clash with Italy next week, a repeat of the 2012 final when La Roja won 4-0.

Ramos penalty against Croatia: “I leave it to the players to decide. They are the protagonists on the pitch. There is nothing better than the coach choosing the system to be played and that they feel comfortable. I would never force anybody to do anything. If there is a penalty against Italy it will be the same. A penalty is something you can’t coach. I could take the ball now and have a shot with incredible confidence because nobody is watching. If there is tension it’s different, it’s not coachable.”

Croatia: “We knew about Perisic, he is a great player and these things happen in football. I think it is unfair to blame someone in particular when we lose. We weren’t able to manage the final stage of the game.”

Playing style: “We are being made to suffer when we haven’t got the ball; when we are in possession we are better. We made a few changes in South Africa but not many. We had a plan and it’s the same now.”

Unused players: “It pains me not to have used Koke, Thiago, Barta more, and all of the players. The way all of our players have been conducting themselves has been exemplary and I will always be grateful to those who haven’t played. It’s invaluable. A few perhaps unfortunate comments from Pedro is the most I can say.”

Changes: “There are things where you have to be constant and stubborn, not inflexible but with a clear idea in your head. We have worked well defensively and I think we have moved the ball around well to be more attacking without giving up possession. I think we have improved.”

Casillas: “Casillas is in an uncomfortable situation because he is not in the starting 11. We didn’t plan any changes to the 11 for the third game. We spoke to the players to see how they were, we have personal relationships. I didn’t speak to Iker about whether he would play in the third game. We always give consideration to changes but we do what is best for the side.”

Last 16: “Football isn’t like tennis. Can you be sure that Germany or Slovakia are going to win? There are no results you can be sure of beforehand.”

Italy: “They are very good defensively but Italy also have attacking players. They have good wingers, two strikers and a defensive quartet with three centre halves and De Rossi who are immovable but they don’t have to limit themselves to playing defensively. They have changed their midfield and they are maybe a bit more direct than in 2012. I don’t see them as a purely defensive team although they have that tag. The central defenders are very good, they know each other inside out.”

Pedro’s outburst: “What Pedro did didn’t sit well with me. It wasn’t relevant, although it was stupid, and it can’t be said it had any influence on our game. We have, in the main, a healthy squad who all get along. It’s not a catechism but there is a very good atmosphere in the squad. That’s why I’m grateful to the players that aren’t getting on the pitch.”