By Pete Sanderson
Reaching the last eight of the UEFA European Women's Championship is all-too-familiar territory for the Azzurre. The Italian national team have, after all, never failed to make the quarter-final stage of the tournament since it began.
Win or bust
But qualification is one thing - and winning the title a different problem altogether. So, after collecting runners-up medals at WOMEN'S EURO 1993 and 1997, Italy coach Carolina Morace is anxious to bury their reputations as bridesmaids and finally win the competition outright.
The squad certainly have the talent. Captain Patrizia Panico and Ilaria Pasqui form one of the most feared strike forces in the game and in Morace, the only woman to coach a male professional team in Italy (albeit for only two games), they have one of the most knowledgeable managers in women's football. Morace shared her views with uefa.com after seeing her side drawn in the same group as France, Norway and defending champions Germany in Manchester.
uefa.com: Italy have done consistently well in this tournament over the years. Are you confident you can maintain this tradition next summer?
Carolina Morace: I am of the opinion that in women's football at the moment in Italy it's not just important to win, as we are still in a development phase. Therefore, it is important to convince the public that this is a great sport to watch.
Our national team represents the best vehicle to promote women's football in Italy and we try to develop a playing style that is attractive. In football anything can happen. The men's [UEFA] European Championship was won by Greece who were certainly not the strongest team in the competition.
uefa.com: Italy have a very young team, in particular the midfield. Do you think this will be a benefit or a disadvantage?
Morace: It is obviously very important to have under-age competitions like the [UEFA European Women's] Under-19 Championship, and it would certainly be good to have an Under-17 tournament too, which does not exist yet. Of course, gaining experience in continental tournaments at youth level helps you to strengthen the technical and sporting skills and participate successfully at senior level. It is true that I have a very young midfield. But it is also true that these girls have been playing with me for a while now and they already have great personality. That personality does not necessarily come from your age but from your mental strength.
uefa.com: You have been involved at the top of women's football for a long time. How has the game changed and developed over the last ten to 15 years?
Morace: Unfortunately, in Italy numbers are not exactly growing. This is certainly a big problem if you want to build a competitive national team. It would therefore be necessary to develop a project to better promote the game at grassroots level. I think that in my time there were probably more talented players, but we were maybe weaker from a tactical and physical point of view.
Today you find less talented players but they are better athletes and they know better where to stand on the pitch in terms of tactics.
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