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 By Ben Gladwell

Conte backed to impress as Italy boss

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri believes that Italian sides must do better this season in European competitions.

New Italy coach Antonio Conte has been tipped to be a success on the Azzurri bench by two of his predecessors.

The former Juventus boss on Thursday returned to work just weeks after walking out on the Bianconeri, succeeding Cesare Prandelli in the lead role in Italian football and signing a contract through to the end of Euro 2016.

After this summer's dismal performance at the World Cup -- where the 2006 world champions were eliminated in the group stage for the second edition in a row -- Italian football is in need of a boost.

And Conte, who guided Juventus to three straight Serie A titles in three seasons, is widely regarded as the man who could provide it.

"I think his credentials to be the coach of the national team are more than just positive," Dino Zoff, who managed Italy from 1998 to 2000, told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I had him as a player and he was the perfect professional. He's just had three extraordinary years with Juve, but now all he's got to concern himself with is getting the national team winning.

"He doesn't need any advice from me. He will know how to pick a good squad and I think he'll do well. He's going to manage to build a great national team."

Emulating Zoff's runners-up spot at Euro 2000 would be regarded as a success by many, but Conte's hunger for titles would likely mean he would not even settle for that.

"He's demonstrated over the years that he has the right mentality and that he's the right man to revive the national team," former Italy international Sandro Mazzola said.

Antonio Conte has signed a contract through to the end of Euro 2016.

Meanwhile, Cesare Maldini, Italy coach from 1996 to 1998, said: "He's a person with good intentions and a great coach. He's succeeded with Juventus and it's only right [he's now Italy coach].

"Of course he's Bianconero, but when you're coach of the national team, you've got to think of everybody. It's a good choice."

His Juve background may mean he is not the overwhelming number-one choice among Italian football fans, but Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon doubts his appointment will divide the nation.

"Antonio is a winning coach with personality and it's normal that opposition fans resent him, but I'm certain that 95 percent of Italian fans would like to have him as coach of their team, and the same goes for Italy," Buffon told reporters in Singapore, where Juventus are currently on tour.

"He could do the whole footballing movement and individual players a lot of good. He's intelligent and sensitive to know how to understand and adapt to a situation which is not ideal."

Conte's first game in charge will come just a stone's throw away from Lecce, where he was born, and where he celebrated his first coaching success.

The Stadio San Nicola -- the venue where on May 9, 2009, Conte celebrated leading Bari to promotion to Serie A -- will host Italy's friendly with Netherlands on Sept. 4.

Five days later, he will then lead out the Azzurri in Oslo for their first Euro 2016 qualifier against Norway.

His first competitive game on home soil comes in Palermo where Azerbaijan are the guests on Oct. 10, before a short trip to Malta three days later.


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