Giampaolo Pazzini admitted that the atmosphere in the Italy camp has been "sweet and sour" as the blow of failing to reach the last four of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship has been softened by their chance of a place at the Olympics.
The Azzurrini were many commentators' tips to claim a sixth title in the Netherlands but they never really recovered from the disappointment of opening-day defeat against Serbia. A 2-2 draw with England followed and although Pierluigi Casiraghi's team beat the Czech Republic 3-1 in their final outing, it was only good enough for third place in Group A – though they could earn redemption by overcoming Portugal in the Olympic play-off. "We were very disappointed that we are now only playing the play-offs rather than the semi-finals," said ACF Fiorentina striker Pazzini. "We could still salvage something from our campaign here and depart the Netherlands on good terms."
Pazzini came into the tournament riding the crest of a wave. Seven goals in 24 Serie A appearances have apparently done enough to convince Viola coach Cesare Prandelli he could be a natural replacement for FC Bayern München-bound Luca Toni – a feeling no doubt enhanced by his eye-catching hat-trick against England U21s in March. Yet the 22-year-old has been unable to replicate that form in the Netherlands. "I expect many fans have been disappointed, not only by the performance of the team as a whole, but of me in particular," he said. "Personally I am unhappy with my performance at this championship. I have not showed all I have in me."
Some have accused Italy of coming into the tournament with a superiority complex, turning up in the Netherlands to collect their trophy but Pazzini is adamant the opposite is true. "I never experienced that - not in training, nor during the games. Things did not go to plan so there is nothing to do except feel sorrow and move on," he continued. "On Thursday I'll do my best so that Italy qualify for the Olympics. We are being very conscientious preparing for our final game and we are really looking forward to giving a good performance."
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