A doyen of coaching and head of youth at the Italian Football Federation, Arrigo Sacchi tells UEFA.com about the finalists, developing youngsters and the future.
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UEFA European Under-21 Championship finalists Italy have already enjoyed a fine tournament in Israel regardless of what happens against Spain in Tuesday's Jerusalem showpiece. UEFA.com caught up with Italian Football Federation (FIGC) head of youth – and former AC Milan and Italy coach – Arrigo Sacchi to discuss Devis Mangia's side, working as a team and the future of Italian football.
UEFA.com: What have you liked most about this Italy U21 team?
Arrigo Sacchi: The quality of their football. This team is full of interesting players, but more important is their professionalism and enthusiasm. I hope they don't lose that, because then they can achieve good results. [This tournament] is an extraordinary experience for them.
UEFA.com: How would you sum up the work of coach Mangia?
Sacchi: Mangia has been doing a good job. He took over a good team from [Ciro] Ferrara a year ago and has managed to improve it step by step. This team has been playing really positive football. He is just a great coach. I think he is one of the best-prepared coaches in Italy.
UEFA.com: Germany and Spain have had very contrasting tournaments.
Sacchi: [Germany] didn't play well as a unit. They have good players, but you didn't see it because the collective element was missing. They didn't play good football. Spain are just extraordinary and they serve as a great example. In Spain they've learned that football is a team sport. That is making the difference at the moment.
UEFA.com: Do you see a bright future for many of this Azzurrini side?
Sacchi: Yes, if they don't lose their modesty, their professionalism and their team ethic. Team ethic means that you stay faithful to those who take care of you – your club, your national team, your coach.
UEFA.com: There has never been a lack of young talent in Italy – is it just in the blood?
Sacchi: There have been times when we produced more talent and other times we produced less. This year you can see Italy participating in the U17 and U21 final tournaments. This shows a [positive] trend.
UEFA.com: Is there a good collaboration between the Italy youth teams and Cesare Prandelli's senior side?
Sacchi: I definitely think so. There is a great synergy from the U15s up to U21 level. If you look at Prandelli you can see he is also working towards playing football as a collective. There has been a lot of progress, with [Stephan] El Shaarawy and [Mattia] De Sciglio, for example, who are already in the senior team. [Marco] Verratti has also made his debut, as have [Fabio] Borini and [Mattia] Destro. We in the national set-up focus on the game because we know that football feeds the individual player and nurtures their skills and qualities.
UEFA.com: Italy U21 teams have done well over the years, but the U17 team only made it to the final tournament for the first time this season. Why is that?
Sacchi: The reason is that we didn't have a U15 team, we started with the U16s. Other nations – like Spain and Switzerland – started with U12s, so we were behind. Today we have a U15 team, while at regional level they have even started to set up U14 teams.
UEFA.com: And, at junior level, do you think it is important to play other countries?
Sacchi: We have played a lot of international friendlies and that has made us play a different kind of football to that played in Italy.
We think the football of the future will be increasingly based on intelligence and the ability to connect with each other. Confidence and personality are also important.