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Conte welcomes naturalised Italians

Antonio Conte

Italy coach Antonio Conte was forced to defend his selection of two foreign-born players in his latest international squad.

Conte introduced Brazil-born Eder (Sampdoria) and midfielder Franco Vazquez (Palermo), who was born in Argentina, to his squad to face Bulgaria and England.

Critics, such as Inter boss Roberto Mancini, have hit out at the inclusion of players not born on Italian soil, but Conte said it was a sign of the progressive times.

"What I can say - I'm not the first manager and very luckily I won't be the last to select these naturalised players," the former Juventus coach said. 

"In the past it already happened that some naturalised players played with the national team. 

"Mauro Camoranesi for instance, who was world champion in 2006, or I think of [Cristian] Ledesma, [Gabriel] Paletta, Thiago Motta, Amauri, Romulo.

"Then if we look at the last World Cup for example, of the 736 players that went to the World Cup, 83 of them were naturalised. 

"These are the rules and this is football nowadays."

Conte added he did not force either of Eder or Vazquez to wear the Italy shirt, and included them in the squad as he felt they were the best options to bolster the team.

Italy have a Euro 2016 qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia on Saturday, followed by a friendly against England at Juventus Stadium on Tuesday.

"I never forced anybody to play for Italy," Conte said.

"When I went to visit some clubs I didn't talk personally with these players to influence their decisions, I wanted them to feel inside the desire of playing for the Italian national team and most importantly I don't want players choosing to play for Italy only because they wouldn't be selected for the national team of the country where they were born. 

"Having said that, Vazquez and Eder are two players who are playing very, very well in this championship. 

"I wanted to test them already a month ago when we were supposed to have a session, but it wasn't possible so I decided to call them to see how they fit with the rest of the team. 

"I think that they are two players who can add something important to this team."

Conte said it was a message to younger naturalised Italians that they can, too, aim for international honours.

"I think that only the best players should play for the national team, and I believe no player should hope to be selected for the luck of good players," he said.

"This is the message I want to send to young and even younger players. 

"The national team is made of the best players, and every player has to show they are one of the best."

Inter coach Mancini had said only players born in Italy should play for the country.

"I don't know if it's right or not selecting naturalised players in the national team, it depends on what kind of naturalised player they are," he said.

"I think that the Italian national team should play only players born in Italy, like what happens in other countries. This is my idea at least."

Tags: Antonio Conte | Euro 2016 Qualification | italy | soccer

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