Italy veteran Rosucci embraces prima donna role

Just 18, Martina Rosucci will nonetheless be a veteran at the Under-19 finals and the former winner believes her experience can help Italy "repeat that miracle" of 2008.

Martina Rosucci (left) hopes Italy can further boost the popularity of women's football
Martina Rosucci (left) hopes Italy can further boost the popularity of women's football ©Getty Images

Having already tasted European glory with Italy, Martina Rosucci knows what it takes to win the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship, and the Azzurrine captain will be calling upon all her experience in a bid for a repeat success on home soil this summer.

Rosucci was just 16 when she appeared for the Italy squad that clinched their first European crown, overcoming Norway in the final in Blois, France. Then the youngest player in the squad, Rosucci made just two substitute appearances, but the experience imbued her with an understanding of the importance of team spirit at major tournaments. Italy coach Corrado Corradini wants his captain to pass on her wisdom at the forthcoming tournament in Rimini.

"I asked her to let her team-mates understand the spirit of that team," said Corradi. "It's not that I need a 'lawyer' to explain this but she lived that experience, she has wonderful memories of that tournament and I want her to explain to everybody what it was like."

The role of leading lady – or prima donna – is one that the 18-year-old Torino Calcio Femminile midfielder is all too eager to play: "I think I can transmit something from that experience to my team-mates," Rosucci told "I have already told them everything about that experience and I will do it again ahead of the finals. I think the power of concentration was the real key. We can repeat that miracle – because it was a miracle – if we can reach that level of concentration again.

"I will never forget that tournament. To win a European championship when you are just 16 is amazing. We played the perfect tournament, I was mostly on the bench but I perfectly remember the level of attention of my team-mates – they wouldn't give a centimetre. I think we could have beaten any team in that period. It was really a great Italy side."

Her present role is a world away from that of the wide-eyed youngster who tasted victory as an inexperienced 16-year-old, as now Rosucci knows that, as captain, it rests with her to guide her team-mates through the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a major tournament. "I was very calm and I was just enjoying the experience three years ago," she said. "Now I feel a great responsibility because I have been playing in this team for three years. I'm the captain, I cannot just focus on my performance but I have to think about the rest of the team as well. It's completely different."

The midfielder remains confident despite a run of disappointing results ahead of the tournament, including three defeats in the recent tournament at La Manga. "We didn't play well, but three years ago we also thought that our realistic aim was to reach the semi-finals. It was only during the tournament that we realised that we could go all the way. There are eight great teams in the finals and as soon as you get on the pitch you immediately forget what has happened in the past."

Italy face Russia in their opening Group A match before taking on Switzerland and Belgium. "We are playing all the teams who did particularly well in the qualifying campaign, often surprising the bigger teams. In my opinion the biggest surprise were Belgium but we have always played well against them so we are confident. We are playing at home and we want to do well to repay all the effort that has been made to organise the tournament and because we want to promote women's football in Italy."