Italy's toughest challenge could well be behind them having held many people's "tournament favourites" Croatia to a 0-0 draw in their opening UEFA European Under-17 Championship encounter. With that obstacle overcome, the future is looking promising for the Azzurrini. "It is a draw which gives us morale to reach the final," said Udinese Calcio goalkeeper Simone Scuffet, who came through his first major test in Slovakia with flying colours.
"I made some great saves in what is a huge competition; a great showcase providing great emotions," he told UEFA.com after taming Croatia's lively duo of Alen Halilović and Ante Rogulijić in Nitra on Sunday. "They are two very strong players with lots of quality, but despite that, I and the rest of the defence, and the whole team, were able to keep them out and not concede," added defender Elio Capradossi. "They are certainly an excellent side and one of the tournament favourites so, considering that, it was a great result."
Indeed, Italy would not be Italy were they not constructed on solid foundations. The Udinese custodian and the AS Roma stopper are two components of a mean back line which conceded just three goals on their way to the finals – and those came in a dead-rubber qualifying round match against Hungary. "We have been working particularly hard on the defence," revealed Capradossi. "It is one of our strong points and it is a credit to the whole team that we concede so few."
In fact, Scuffet has yet to pick the ball out of his net this campaign – AC Milan's Lorenzo Ferrari faced Hungary. "One of the main parts of our game is the defence," said the 16-year-old, who has had perfect mentoring at club level. "[FC Internazionale Milano and Slovenia goalkeeper] Samir Handanovič was a great example for me, as is [Željko] Brkić who is also a great keeper. I am trying to follow them. There is a great climate at Udinese with the youth team often training with the first team to gain their rhythm and to one day get to where they are."
There is a similarly positive spirit of camaraderie within the Italy camp after a successful start to Group B. "We have a great squad with a great coach, great assistants and great staff," said centre-back Capradossi. "Everything is working great and we are going to try to go as far as we can. It is a great, unique experience for a 17-year-old lad."
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