Garcia backs 'solid' Italy, rejects 'no talent' claims


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

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 lack star quality, but Garcia feels there is more to Conte's squad than just workmanlike organisation.

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 insists he does not know which job he will take on next - has seen nothing in the tournament to change his mind about who might win it, but he does not like the 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."