After an almost flawless qualifying campaign of six wins in six games, with 25 goals scored and just one conceded, coach Corrado Corradini approaches next week's UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship with high hopes. He discusses Italy's chances of emulating their victory in France two summer's ago and how the balance of power in the game at this level seems to be migrating south.
UEFA.com: How would you sum up qualifying?
Corrado Corradini: We did a great job; I hope we can do the same at the finals. We have a few physical problems that we are trying to solve, and we hope to have everybody fit before the start of the tournament – if we do, then it will be tough for anybody to play against us. We respect all our opponents, but fear nobody.
UEFA.com: Italy face reigning champions England, Germany and Scotland in Group A – not an easy draw.
Corradini: In a way it is the best draw for us. If we go through the group phase – which is probably the best time to face teams like England and Germany – it means we won't have to face them again until the final.
UEFA.com: Italy will start against Germany. Is it better to play them now or could a loss take the wind out of your sails?
Corradini: Well, I think Germany should be concerned about the same thing. We are not weak: maybe in the past Germany could come on to the pitch and think 'we are going to score five goals easily', but it's not like that anymore. Now they have to be careful; they have to respect us because we have come a long way.
UEFA.com: How has your team grown and what could still be improved?
Corradini: I work professionally, using the experience of many year in men's game [Corradini spent 18 years at S.S. Lazio and has worked as a scout for the senior national team]. The players are really good at following my orders and I would give them 10 out of 10 for the way they work, their stability, reliability, commitment ... These are qualities I haven't always seen among men.
UEFA.com: How far do the players think they can go?
Corradini: When we won in 2008 we had a few players born in 1992. Some of them are still here and they keep telling me: 'Coach, we want our medals back.' They are ready, confident. The only problem could be that two or three are not in the best shape and as we don't have many options it could be a problem if they don't recover. School is another problem. Two players only arrived on Tuesday night because they had exams; another left on Tuesday and will be back on Friday for the same reason. It is not ideal.
UEFA.com: How do UEFA competitions like this help the development of women's football?
Corradini: They help, and the next step is to have semi-professionalism in every country. I'm not saying we should all become professional all of a sudden, but that should be the direction. When girls are ten or 12 years old, they need experienced trainers if they really want to improve. I'd also like to point out that some big Scandinavian teams did not qualify for the finals. Something is changing. Women's football is growing in the south of Europe. Women's football is heading south.
For a more in-depth look at Italy and how they gear up for these finals, click here.
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