Conte: Republic of Ireland got more than they deserved

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AFP
The 46-year-old congratulated Martin O'Neill's charges after the game but insists they were fortunate to secure a 1-0 win over his Italy side at Grand Stade Lille Metropole

Antonio Conte believes Republic of Ireland got more than they deserved from their 1-0 win over his Italy side on Wednesday.

A late header from Robbie Brady deep into the second half proved decisive as Ireland inflicted a first defeat at Euro 2016 on Italy to qualify for the knockout stages.

But while Conte congratulated Martin O'Neill's men on their historic win in Lille, he insists they were fortunate to run out winners.

"Congratulations to Republic of Ireland, they were rewarded. A little more than they deserved, but rewarded nonetheless," he said.

"I saw some great responses because those who played gave everything they had. We were punished when we were on top of the game.

"I don't think we deserved to lose, a draw would have been the fairer outcome given the chances produced. Having already qualified, we had the option to make some changes and give a rest to those who put a lot in. Despite all that, I think we saw a side that has strengths and weaknesses but wants to keep scrapping until the end.

"The first aim was to reach the last 16. Now we have a match against one of the favourites [Spain]. Let's not forget where we started, we mustn't get above our station."

Italy still secured top spot in Group E despite their narrow defeat against Ireland, but have been handed a tough draw against defending champions Spain in the last 16.

And should Conte's charges manage to get past Spain, they could then face world champions Germany and hosts France - who lock horns with Ireland in the next round - in their bid for glory.

Conte concedes Italy have a “problematic” road to the final but has urged his side to embrace the challenge.

"We should let the match [against Spain] excite us, just as it did against Belgium, who were stronger on paper," Conte added.

"Had we not started on the front foot it would have been tough because we played a team who played the game of their lives. I know what it's like to play a game like this.

"With the draw, it's definitely odd to win the group and come up against Spain, and the winner will play Germany and then France. It's a pretty problematic road to the final.

"But that's the way it is, those are the rules."

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