Garcia rejects Italy talent jibes

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It has been suggested that the Azzurri, despite their fine efforts at Euro 2016 so far, are short of star quality but the ex-Roma boss disagrees and has hailed their team spirit

Rudi Garcia has rejected claims Italy lack talent and believes Antonio Conte's side are playing with "joy and togetherness" at Euro 2016.

Italy are assured of top spot in Group E ahead of Wednesday's match against Republic of Ireland, knowing reigning champions Spain await in the second round.

It has been suggested Italy are short in terms of star quality, but Garcia disagrees and has praised the team spirit within the side.

He told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Italy are solid. The organisation enforced by Conte is clear and built on a very strong and experienced defence.

"[But] It's false they have no talent. I think the Azzurri have quite a bit of that. Besides, I see a joy and a togetherness in their team that bodes very well.

"Many of them also get an extra rest day because first place in Group E is guaranteed."

Former Roma boss Garcia, who believes Belgium are the strongest side in the tournament, insists he doesn't like the competition's new format.

"My favourites are the same as they were at the beginning. The strongest is Belgium, but Croatia look good too," he added.

"Spain and Germany are strong, and it's too early for a final judgment on France.

"But I don't like the fact that almost all third-placed teams make it to the last 16. That makes the group stage almost redundant.”