I’m in Oslo to cover Italy’s first qualification match for the 2016 UEFA Euro tournament. I arrived yesterday afternoon and after a quick stop at my hotel I made my way to Ullevaal Stadium which will host tonights match. The Azzurri held an open training session, meaning the press was allowed to stay for the entire session and not the usual first 15 minutes. The session was pretty light consisting of running, passing work, and some players doing shooting exercises.
A whole host of people from the Italian FA were on hand. Lazio president Claudio Lotito, who’s presence newspapers claim is an irritation for certain players, was hanging around. He was not at all pleased to be photographed either. New Italian FA president Carlo Tavecchio was also on hand, but did extremely well at hiding himself from us photographers.
After the training session Antonio Conte and Leonardo Bonucci gave a press conference. In stark contrast to Norway’s head coach Per-Mathias Høgmo, Antonio Conte changed out of his training clothes and came to the press conference as well dressed and elegant as you would expect from an Italian. The feeling at press conference was pretty up beat. There tends to be a honeymoon period with new coaches in Italy when the press builds them up so they can eventually knock them over. This is Conte’s moment and everyone can’t say enough about how wonderful it is that he is asking for players that run and give all for the shirt. I can’t help but chuckle at that just a little bit. Did the previous coach, Cesare Prandelli, not ask for something as elementary as that? Or is it that maybe along the way something broke and as a result that was lost?
Either way expectations are high for tonights game. Today’s La Gazzetta Dello Sport ran the headline “Conte Questa Conta” which translates to “Conte This One Counts.” It goes without saying that the Italian press is expecting him to deliver 3 points this evening.