Spearheaded by a pair of Romanian brothers, S.S. Pennarossa and their coach Giovanni Podavini are aiming for a return to European football as the season in San Marino nears its climax.
"Even in our small world we are working hard to become more and more competitive," Podavini told UEFA.com. "The results have been positive but we must continue to grow." Indeed, his side are second to SP Tre Penne in the San Marinese Championship Group B and edging ever closer to a place in the play-offs, when the top three from each 'girone' vie for the title and the coveted UEFA Champions League qualifying berth.
Podavini hopes to seal progress as swiftly as possible "in order to prepare for the season's conclusion with calm", and much may depend on the continued form of Romanian brothers Florian and Valentin Grigore. "We knew they had quality and they are proving it match after match – they have great desire," said Podavini. "Before coming to San Marino, Florian's career was in jeopardy – and his life – because of an infection after a serious injury. Valentin is also a great talent. Unfortunately he is not able to train every day due to work commitments as he could easily play at a higher level."
Pennarossa's official website has a section dedicated to their only UEFA competition tie to date, a 9-1 aggregate defeat by Bosnian side FK Željezničar in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup first qualifying round, while Podavini famously hit the post playing for S.S. Cosmos against SK Rapid Wien in 2001. Even if Pennarossa fail to secure a return to that stage this summer, their manager is guaranteed another taste of international football after being appointed to lead San Marino's team at the UEFA Regions' Cup.
"I think I can help with my experience and enthusiasm," he said having replaced Pier Angelo Manzaroli, who successfully led the side through the preliminary round two years ago. His side will face teams from the Republic of Ireland, France and Italy, and Podavini is relishing the challenge. "It won't be easy to repeat my predecessor's success but we hope to be the surprise package. Facing a team from Italy will be a great opportunity and extra motivation for us."
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