Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni has admitted that his side will now struggle to make the knock out stages of Euro 2004 after a 1-1 draw with Group C rivals Sweden.
However, Trapattoni refused to criticise his players after they squandered a one-goal lead to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late equaliser in Porto.
“We gave everything we had, played well and created a lot of chances, but their goalkeeper was superb,” he said
“In the second half we got tired and they were able to push up on the wings. When they scored I thought there might have been a foul on Zambrotta.
“Certainly the result makes our chances for qualifying questionable.”
Italy would face elimination even if they win their final game against Bulgaria.
But Trapattoni defended his players.
“If we play like that I think we’ve got an excellent chance of winning,” he added.
Trapattoni singled out Antonio Cassano forpraise. The Roma man replaced the suspended Francesco Totti and scored Italy’s goal.
“He scored a great goal,” the coach said. “I thought he deserved another. He’s young and has plenty of room for improvement.
“Hats off to Cassano for his beautiful goal and his good performance.
Trapattoni, who faces criticism for withdrawing Cassano and fellow playmaker Alessasndro Del Piero, denied that the substitutions were borne out of a desire to shore up the Italian defence.
“I substituted him and Del Piero because they were exhausted,” he said.