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Cosmi trip widens Udinese horizons

Published: Tuesday 23 August 2005, 15.13CET
Udinese Calcio are confident of beating Sporting Clube de Portugal to reach the group stage for the first time, with coach Serse Cosmi "very optimistic".
by Michael Harrold features

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Published: Tuesday 23 August 2005, 15.13CET

Cosmi trip widens Udinese horizons

Udinese Calcio are confident of beating Sporting Clube de Portugal to reach the group stage for the first time, with coach Serse Cosmi "very optimistic".
Serse Cosmi cut a relaxed figure after Udinese Calcio's 1-0 victory at Sporting Clube de Portugal two weeks ago.

Excellent start
Sporting's attacking edge had been blunted by a well-drilled Udinese, and Cosmi, a notoriously volatile character, was enjoying the moment. His side had had to defend deep for long spells, but as an introduction to the UEFA Champions League, it doesn't get much better than an away win in your first match in charge.

'Great game'
"We suffered in the first leg in Portugal and we understood what kind of team they are," said Cosmi, who replaced Luciano Spalletti as coach in June. "They take your breath away with their ball possession and have great potential in attack, but when I enter our dressing room and see how focused my players are, I'm sure we can play another great game [tonight]."

'Very optimistic'
If Udinese can repeat that feat they will qualify for the group stage for the first time. They surprised Italy by finishing fourth in Serie A last season and now Cosmi hopes to catch Europe similarly unawares. "It's a tie that can change the history of the club," he said. "We feel the pressure, but it's a positive pressure, we are very optimistic."

Significant roles
Cosmi gave debuts to Christian Obodo, Vincent Candela, Paulo Barreto and Cesare Natali in Lisbon and all had significant roles to play in Udinese's third qualifying round first-leg success. Barreto won the penalty that decided the match, Natali and Candela added bite at the back, and Obodo rushed and harried a Sporting midfield that threatened much but delivered little.

Cosmi expects a lot from Obodo, who was bought to replace the FC Internazionale Milano-bound David Pizarro. With Giampiero Pinzi injured, the 21-year-old Nigerian international came straight into the lineup and more than held his own at the Estádio José Alvalade. "It's not easy - the pressure is always on me," Obodo told "But as a player I just have to be myself and know what I'm looking for and work towards that."

Vidigal strength
The introduction of former Sporting favourite José Vidigal, another new face, for Barreto shortly before half-time strengthened Udinese's grip in the centre, and eased Obodo's workload. But the youngster will clearly be an influence this season.

Tough time
Obodo, capped eight times by Nigeria, is already starting his fifth term in Italy and was happy to link up with Cosmi again after a difficult year at ACF Fiorentina. The Florence team went through three coaches and, despite interest from a number of top clubs, Obodo opted for the stability offered by Cosmi.

'Expect anything'
"I played under Cosmi at [AC] Perugia so I know him well," Obodo said, grateful for the chance of a first crack at the Champions League. "Football works that way. You never know where you'll find yourself the next season so you have to expect anything any time."

'Focus and concentrate'
Udinese do, however, know what to expect from Sporting. "It wasn't an easy game," Obodo said. "They are a good team and came out in attack but we were good at the back. What we have to do for the next match is stay focused and concentrate."

Another performance needed
Cosmi will ensure that happens. "In Portugal we defended when Sporting forced us to, but we also managed to create a few goalscoring chances," the coach said. "I hope we can produce another performance like that." Anything less would come as a surprise.

Last updated: 23/08/05 17.45CET

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