Italy have never missed out on the last eight of the UEFA European Women's Championship and with the finals having been expanded to 12 teams for 2009 they are not prepared to break that run now.
However, the 1993 and 1997 runners-up have not had things go all their way in recent years. At UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ they lost all three games, conceding 12 goals and they followed that with another disappointing FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying campaign. They began their 2009 Group 2 fixtures with a 2-0 home loss to Sweden, but followed that with a 2-1 win away against the Republic of Ireland, and wins on Saturday in Hungary and at home to Romania four days later would leave the Azzurre in first place over the new year.
'In our hands'
Experienced striker Patrizia Panico has been capped more than 100 times, has more than 50 international goals to her name and is determined that Italy will compete in the finals in Finland, telling uefa.com: "I understand the pressure, but at a minimum our goal is to qualify."
Panico was part of the ASD CF Bardolino Verona side that last week reached the UEFA Women's Cup quarter-finals, and indeed the Italian champions dominate the national squad. "We are creating some continuity, which is something the Italy side hasn't had lately," Panico said. "Our performances have been erratic – we can beat Germany 1-0 then lose 5-0 to Norway. The fact that so many players are being called up from the same club creates togetherness."
Unlike Italy, Romania and Hungary are not among the favourites to qualify for UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™, but that does not mean the games are being taken lightly. "Our goal is to win but what you now see in women’s football is that you cannot take anyone for granted," Panico said "You have to prepare for these teams as if we were playing the top teams in the group."
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