- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

MONTPELLIER, France (AP) - Italy full back Mattia De Sciglio believes that what the Azzurri lack in star quality, they more than make up for in their strength as a group.

Italy arrived at the European Championship with an aging team that was much criticized by the media back home. But it advanced as the winner of Group E with a match to spare and beat two-time defending champion Spain 2-0 in the round of 16.

Next up for Antonio Conte’s side is its old foe and reigning world champion Germany.

“Conte gives us determination,” De Sciglio said Thursday. “Since we don’t have superstars like Spain has and like Germany has, we need to put everything we have, all our effort, determination.

“It’s a team job. Not having individuals who can change the game, we have to help each other out and not let up for a single second.”

That strength as a group will be tested on Saturday when Italy will be without key midfielder Daniele de Rossi, who is a doubt with a thigh injury.

Italy is already missing midfielder Antonio Candreva because of injury, while Claudio Marchisio, Marco Verratti and Riccardo Montolivo were ruled out before the start of the tournament.

“We are ready, we are aware of our values and qualities,” De Sciglio said. “In midfield we have some absentees, but we have other players able to replace the teammates that can’t make it. We are a group of 23, there are no good players and reserves, no starters.”

As well as a battle between arguably the two best teams at Euro 2016, it will also be a standoff between the two best defenses in the tournament.

Germany has yet to concede a goal, while Italy has conceded just once, in its final group match against Ireland.

Much of that is down to Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, who play at the back for club as well as country - along with Juventus goalkeeper and Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon.

“We have the three Juventus players who show every match their strength, their understanding,” De Sciglio said. “Playing every match together they know each other perfectly.

“They’re also great personalities. On the pitch they guide us, give instructions to all their teammates so we can move the best way possible. The fact they’ve always won in Italy in the last five years has given them a lot of strength.”

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