Recent results will not have filled Italy with confidence, yet coach Corrado Corradini is hopeful the spirit of 2008 will return to the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship hosts.
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By coach Corrado Corradini's own admission, Italy failed to build on their surprise 2008 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship success. Yet the 66-year-old is hopeful that the Azzurrine can put a series of bad pre-tournament friendly results behind them and taste European glory again on home soil when the tournament kicks off on 30 May.
UEFA.com: Were you worried after your team lost all three games at March's La Manga tournament?
Corrado Corradini: That tournament is very important at youth level. It is played every year and all the best European teams and the United States take part in it. It can give an indication of what to expect for the finals here, and unfortunately we did not play well and lost all three of our games. We decided not to play any other friendlies before the finals because we want more time to train together. We have also given the players extra training to follow when they are with their clubs.
UEFA.com: Do you think the lack of competitive games could be a problem as you didn't have to play in the qualifying rounds?
Corradini: I'm not worried about that. The first qualifying round is relatively easy for the bigger teams; in the second there is a bigger selection. However, I'm mostly worried about the level of our domestic league. Our girls know a certain type of football but when they play at European level they find a completely different one. It takes time before they fully understand what it takes at international level.
We have to find ways of improving the level of our domestic league. Women's football has a small impact in terms of the media here in Italy. In the long term I think professionalism is the only solution.
UEFA.com: So is a repeat of 2008 unrealistic?
Corradini: In 2008 I was sure our side had less quality than its predecessors. I hope this team proves me wrong like the one in 2008 did. The main difference is in attack. In 2008 we had forwards who could score against any opponents. Players like [Alice] Parisi, [Sara] Gama and others were nearly ready to make the step up to the senior national team. Of this team I think only Martina [Rosucci] can hope to step up in the short term.
UEFA.com: She was a member of the team who triumphed in 2008. How important is her experience for this team?
Corradini: I asked her to let her team-mates understand the spirit of that team. It's not that I need a 'lawyer' to explain this but she lived through that experience, she has wonderful memories of that tournament and I want her to explain to everybody what it was like.
UEFA.com: You were drawn in Group A with Russia, Switzerland and Belgium. Were you satisfied?
Corradini: I was surprised France, England and Sweden were knocked out because they're all leading countries in women's football. In one sense I'm happy because it means other teams are growing fast, but I'm also worried because I don't think we're growing as quickly. The biggest surprise is Belgium. We have faced them many times in the past and they have never caused us too many problems – they've done a tremendous job getting to these finals. As ever, Germany are favourites; they're on a different level even if they did fail to win the last two editions.
UEFA.com: How do you rate your chances in the tournament and how important is a good result on home soil for promoting women's football in Italy?
Corradini: When we won in 2008 I was more surprised than anyone. I think the key moment was when we beat the hosts, France. After that game I told the girls we could beat anybody. You need a game like that in this kind of tournament. All of a sudden something changes in the mindset of the players and they realise there are no limits. I hope we have a similar moment this year. I would like to qualify for the semi-finals to give the Italian fans something to remember. Once we're in the semi-finals anything is possible.