Italy to focus on breaking down China's defense in round of 16

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MONTPELLIER, France, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Italian coach Milena Bertolini gave a high praise to China's defense but also stated her confidence in her own squad as the two sides encounter in the FIFA Women's World Cup last 16 here on Tuesday.

"China are a well-organized team. They are strong, both physically and mentally," Milena Bertolini, who turns 53 on Monday, told a pre-match press conference on Monday.

Italy reached the knockout stage after topping Group C, beating Australia and Brazil to the respective second and third place just on goal differentials, while China advanced as one of the best third-placed teams with goalkeeper Peng Shimeng only letting in one goal so far.

"It will be small differences that decide the match against China," Bertolini said. "In order to win this last 16, we need to be better than we've been so far."

"We need to be more precise, more attentive and focused. That's the recipe to beat China," she said.

Bertolini took over as national team coach in August 2017 ahead of qualifying for France 2019 and led the team to the top of their group, winning seven of their eight matches, scoring 19 goals and conceding only four.

"It's the first time in 20 years we qualified for the World Cup finals. I'd never dreamed to finish top of the group. But we've made tremendous effort, gotten paid back and grown a lot in the last two years," Bertolini said.

"Everybody is asking me what I want for a birthday gift," she added. "I want what my whole team want - to get through to the quarterfinals!"

"It will be a tough game against China, but we'll well prepared for it, try our best and show the world what we can do while breaking down the Chinese defense," echoed Italian skipper Sara Gama.

Italy and China have met seven times previously with Le Azzurre leading the head-to-head with 3-2-2. China won the last meeting 2-0 back in December 2015. Enditem

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