At UEFA Women's EURO 2009, Italy reached the knockouts for the first time in 12 years with a 2-0 victory against Russia. On Wednesday the pair are rematched in Treviso for what could be a pivotal 2013 qualifier.
After two Group 1 matches, both teams are on six points. Italy edged a 1-0 win in Bosnia and Herzegovina last month before striking nine without reply in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Saturday. Russia, meanwhile, beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 4-1 at the weekend having opened with a 2-0 victory in Poland, who were tipped as the side who could upset the top two seeds.
Italy's weekend success came despite the absence of ill goalkeeper Anna Maria Picarelli, injured defenders Alia Guagni and Raffaella Manieri and forwards Sandy Iannella and Patrizia Panico. The captain's absence was made up for by a hat-trick from Daniela Sabatino on her first start, reward for her superb goalscoring form for ACF Brecia Femminile last season. Picarelli should be back on Wednesday.
"This is a very important game," said Italy coach Pietro Ghedin. "Italy and Russia have won their first two games in the group, we are aware of their strength but we also know we are preparing well. I think we have worked very well in the last few days.
We are missing four important players but I fully trust those who are going to replace them. I'm sure we are on the right path and I hope we can show it against Russia."
Russia began qualifying with a new coach in the man that turned Olympique Lyonnais into a European force, Farid Benstiti, after Vera Pauw – who had replaced Igor Shalimov in April – decided to concentrate on her role as Russian Football Union (RFS) technical director for women's teams. Having overcome Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina already, Benstiti approaches the Italy fixture with optimism.
"I would like to point out the good atmosphere in our team," said Benstiti. "We have a very important game against Italy. In order to play better we have to improve and work harder in training. We lack some consistency at the moment. We have some good periods in matches and then some indifferent periods."
Goalkeeper Elvira Todua added: "We have to forget about the Bosnia and Herzegovina game as soon as possible.
Italy are our major opponents, we have to get a positive result."
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