Conte apologises for gesture in Juventus draw

By Sports Desk February 13, 2021

Antonio Conte has apologised for his actions during Inter's Coppa Italia exit to Juventus, saying he should have "reacted differently" after he was "insulted".

The Inter coach, previously in charge in Turin, aimed an insulting gesture at Juve chairman Andrea Agnelli as the pair traded comments at the Allianz Stadium.

The Bianconeri earned a goalless draw to advance to the final 2-1 on aggregate, but Conte was apologetic when revisiting the incident ahead of Inter's Serie A meeting with Lazio on Sunday.

However, the former Italy boss, who said after the game Juve "need more sportsmanship and respect", suggested he was insulted first.

Conte said: "I want to only talk about football during the press conference, so I will say this before we begin: I am here to apologise.

"I reacted in the wrong way to being insulted. I could have reacted differently and that would have been more positive.

"I am sorry and I will learn from this for future reference. The insults and provocation should not be an excuse, because I still shouldn't have responded like that.

"Everyone saw what happened; that is important to me.

"However, we as coaches, players and presidents are meant to set an example and therefore I should have reacted to insults and provocation in a different way - perhaps with a thumbs up or applause, to show I could hear what was being said, but it would've been a more positive response.

"Having said all that, now we should concentrate on the game. People want to talk about football, not gossip."

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    Frank de Boer said it is vital the Netherlands "grow into" Euro 2020 after they beat Austria 2-0 to reach the round of 16 as Group C winners.

    A first-half penalty from Memphis Depay and Denzel Dumfries' second goal of the tournament were enough for the Netherlands to qualify with a game to spare at the Johan Cruijff ArenA on Thursday.

    The Netherlands should have won by a more emphatic margin, with Depay wasting a glorious chance to double his tally in the first half.

    De Boer's side will face one of the third-placed finishers at the Puskas Arena in Budapest a week on Sunday for a place in the quarter-finals after taking on North Macedonia in Amsterdam on Monday.

    Netherlands head coach De Boer wants to see his side continue raising their standards after they became the first Oranje team to score at least two goals in nine consecutive games since 1935.

    "You have to grow into a tournament and especially the feeling you have to playing together as a team, a union but also the system you play," De Boer said.

    "The guys will have a discussion how we can improve, how you grow into a tournament. The union we have now is really important and you have to continue feeling this union during the rest of tournament."

    De Boer will mull over how many changes to make against North Macedonia and whether to tinker with his system.

    He said: "We need to have some words with performance coach and talk with team best thing over what is the best thing to do and prepare for North Macedonia.

    "How will we play, do we maintain the pace of the last games so we can work on the system we have been playing or will give players extra time off and relax? 

    "These are things we have to talk about. Only after Budapest will we know if it was the right thing to do, indeed it's a long time to go [until the round of 16 match]. But three games in a short period and it's warm, you have to take that into account, so we will see what happens and I hope I can make the right decisions."

    Dumfries became only the second Dutchman to score in his first two European Championship appearances, with Ruud van Nistelrooy being the first.

  • Euro 2020 data dive: De Ligt's passing masterclass, Belgium keep winning run going Euro 2020 data dive: De Ligt's passing masterclass, Belgium keep winning run going

    Belgium and the Netherlands joined Italy in booking their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2020 with victories over Denmark and Austria respectively.

    The world's top-ranked side Belgium had to bounce back from a goal down to beat an inspired Denmark, with both teams paying tribute to Christian Eriksen after 10 minutes as the midfielder continues his recovery from a cardiac arrest.

    Roberto Martinez's side need a point in their final Group B match to make certain of top spot, but the Netherlands are already through as Group C winners after seeing off Austria.

    Ukraine also picked up all three points against North Macedonia in Thursday's action – just their second-ever victory at the European Championships.

    Using Opta data, we take a look at some of the best facts from across the day's action.

    Ukraine 2-1 North Macedonia: Shevchenko's men end losing Euros streak

    Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk were on target for the second match running to end Ukraine's six-game losing streak at the European Championships.

    With Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk's first-half goals, Ukraine became the first nation to have the same two players score in their first two games at a single Euros.

    Ezgjan Alioski pulled one back at the second attempt after his penalty was saved, making it two goals in three games – as many as in his previous 17 for North Macedonia.

    His penalty was given after a foul on Goran Pandev, who – at at 37 years and 325 days – is the oldest player to win a spot-kick in the Euros since data was first recorded in 1980.

    Ruslan Malinovskyi failed to convert from 12 yards late on in a game which saw both sides win a penalty in the competition for the first time since England v France in 2004.

    It means four of the six penalties taken at Euro 2020 have not been converted. The last tournament with more was Euro 2000 (five).

    Denmark 1-2 Belgium: Red Devils bounce back from early setback

    Belgium showed why they are ranked number one in the world as they recovered from an early setback to make it 11 wins from their last 12 group games at major competitions.

    However, they had to do things the hard way after Yussuf Poulsen struck early on in Copenhagen.

    Poulsen opened the scoring after 99 seconds – the second-earliest goal ever in the tournament, behind only Dmitry Kirichenko for Russia against Greece in 2004 (65 seconds).

    The one shot on target Belgium managed in the first half came via Dries Mertens, who was earning his 100th cap for his country – the fifth Belgian to reach that landmark.

    But the half-time introduction of Kevin De Bruyne for Mertens transformed the Red Devils, the playmaker setting up Thorgan Hazard's leveller and then drilling in the winner.

    De Bruyne's fantastic strike was teed up by Eden Hazard, who joins the Manchester City star as the two European players to assist a goal at each of the last four major tournaments.

    Belgium survived a nervy finish as they won their first two European Championship matches for the first time, while Denmark have lost their first two for the first time since 2000.

    Netherlands 2-0 Austria: Faultless Oranje ease through

    The Netherlands followed up their opening-game win against Ukraine with a routine victory against Austria in Amsterdam.

    It is the third time the Oranje have won their opening two Euros matches, having previously done so in 2000 and 2008, when they exited the competition at the semi-final and quarter-final stage respectively.

    Frank de Boer's men are now unbeaten in their last nine matches at major tournaments, which is the longest run by a European nation since Portugal went 12 without defeat between 2014 and 2018.

    Memphis Depay opened the scoring for the Netherlands from the penalty spot, the Lyon forward's eighth goal for his country since De Boer took charge last September, with only Belgium's Romelu Lukaku scoring more (10) across all competitions for a European side over that period.

    Denzel Dumfries added the second goal and is just the second Netherlands player to net in his first two appearances at the Euros after Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2004, this after the right-back failed to score in his first 19 senior caps.

    One of the unsung stars for the hosts was Dumfries' fellow defender Matthijs de Ligt, who completed 100 per cent of his 40 passes – a record for a Netherlands player in a European Championship match since records began in 1980.

  • Austria wasting Alaba but De Jong runs the show as Netherlands excite Austria wasting Alaba but De Jong runs the show as Netherlands excite

    Despite plenty of doubts heading into Euro 2020, Frank de Boer's Netherlands side could well just be a surprise package.

    The Netherlands joined Belgium and Italy in qualifying for the last 16 as they claimed a 2-0 victory over Austria in Amsterdam on Thursday, ensuring they will top Group C.

    In truth, they came up against an Austria team who are failing to get the best from the talent Franco Foda has at his disposal, though that will not dispel the positivity surrounding the Oranje after two vibrant attacking displays.

    With Matthijs de Ligt back at the heart of their defence and Frenkie de Jong commanding midfield, the Netherlands looked solid at the back, and this encounter seemed to pit a team with a set system – if sometimes overly offensive – against a side with little idea as to how they want to play.

     

    Austria wasting Alaba's talent

    David Alaba is a player whose versatility has always come in handy both for Bayern Munich and Austria. Indeed, he has more often than not played in midfield for his country.

    He managed to advance forward from a position on the left of a back three in the 3-1 win over North Macedonia on Sunday, providing the assist for Austria's second goal, but in Amsterdam, stationed in the middle of the defence, he looked a shadow of the world-class talent he truly is.

    While still managing to create two chances – matching his total from game one – he was too often forced to stay deep and marshall Austria's line, subsequently becoming a victim of the Netherlands' press. It was only at 2-0 down that Foda made the decision to move his talisman into a more advanced position, from which the Real Madrid-bound left-footer went close to a stunning goal which would have set up a grandstand finish.

    It rounded out a frustrating night for the 28-year-old, whose rash lunge on Denzel Dumfries led to Austria falling behind.

     

    De Jong serves up midfield masterclass

    As Alaba became bogged down in defence, De Jong had free rein in midfield. The Barcelona man sure made the most of it.

    The Netherlands actually had less possession (46.9 per cent) than their visitors, but they always looked to have the match under control and De Jong, whose 77 touches was a team-high, was crucial.

    No player made more tackles (three) or regained possession on more occasions (12) than the former Ajax star, who was at his silky best when on the ball, effortlessly gliding through midfield and picking out his team-mates 49 times, out of 58 attempts, giving him a passing accuracy of 84.5 per cent.

    With the bombarding Dumfries stretching the pitch down the right, De Jong was afforded the time and space to run the show.

    Depay shows his best... and worst

    Memphis Depay had five of the Netherlands' six efforts at goal in the first half, with his penalty – won by the excellent Dumfries – putting the hosts ahead after 11 minutes.

    Depay has scored 27 goals for his country, five more than any other Dutch player since his debut, with Georgino Wijnaldum (22) his closest challenger.

    He really should have had added more to that total. Depay lashed into the side-netting in the 24th minute, but his glaring miss came when he sliced over with the goal gaping just before half-time.

    Nevertheless, his talent is there for all to see, with his six efforts a game-high – albeit the only one which hit the target was his goal.

    It helps that Depay has found support in the goalscoring stakes, Dumfries putting the seal on victory in this game and becoming only the second Dutchman to score in his first two appearances at the Euros, after Ruud van Nistelrooy.

    Sabitzer crowded out as Arnautovic's absence felt

    Marko Arnautovic's suspension for his over-zealous celebration against North Macedonia left Austria short of one of their best options in attack, but Foda is also struggling to find a way to bring Marcel Sabitzer's creativity to the fore.

    The RB Leipzig midfielder showed quality with a supreme cross for the opener against North Macedonia, yet he failed to create any chances for others throughout Thursday's match, only managing one shot himself.

    Sabitzer scored eight Bundesliga goals in 2020-21 for Leipzig, setting up a further three, but like Alaba, it feels as though his ability is not being sufficiently harnessed by a coach who has guided his team to just two wins in their last eight games.

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