Antonio Conte ended his time in charge of Italy as they lost on penalties to Germany in the quarter-final of Euro 2016 – but the incoming Chelsea boss was quick to praise his squad for their efforts.
A Mesut Ozil goal had put Germany in front before Leonardo Bonucci made it 1-1 from the penalty spot with 12 minutes of normal time remaining.
There was no winner to be found in extra-time and, after nine penalties apiece, the Azzurri were eliminated as Jonas Hector scored the decisive spot-kick.
Simone Zaza missed having come on in the dying embers of extra-time but blazed over before Premier League pair Graziano Pelle and Matteo Darmian also missed.
And, after Hector tucked his effort away, Conte’s side were eliminated with the 46-year-old now ready to head to Stamford Bridge proud of what his team accomplished.
“Against a strong side, we demonstrated that this is a tough team where all our opponents respected us – and respected us a lot,” he said.
“The national team gives you emotion and stimuli and I hope this European Championship will leave a legacy, of love for the shirts we were wearing.
“I think the biggest victory for me is having worked with this group of lads. From the kit men to the cooks – everybody who was part of this marvellous experience, this is what has given me the greatest satisfaction.
“I had the honour of working with these people who gave me everything.
“When you do everything, nobody can criticise you at all and these lads went beyond the call of duty, giving absolutely everything and I think people recognise this. You love your country and the shirt you are wearing.”
While Conte is now preparing to start the next chapter of his career, his German counterpart Joachim Low continues as he looks to add the European Championships to the World Cup won two years ago.
Die Mannschaft had not missed a penalty in a shoot-out since 1982 but were on the edge of elimination after a trio of their squad failed from 12 yards.
Ozil, Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger all missed their penalties while Low was left to praise his less experienced squad members who kept their nerve. “I had no real influence on the penalty-takers,” he said. “Every player has to make that decision for himself. It was great that the youngsters like (Joshua) Kimmich and Hector kept their nerves on such a stage.”