Roberto Menichelli's first Futsal EURO as Italy coach ended in a quarter-final exit, and two years on says his team rebuilding is in "an advanced state" though knows they have a tough draw.
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At his second UEFA Futsal EURO as Italy coach, Roberto Menichelli is aiming to improve on his 2010 bow when they suffered a surprise quarter-final exit on penalties to the Czech Republic.
This time they begin Group C against Turkey in Split next Wednesday with Italy's fellow former champions Russia to come. Menichelli spoke to UEFA.com about how hard it will be to repeat their 2003 success, even though the Azzurri are unbeaten in the last year and at an "advanced phase" of his "technical renewal process".
UEFA.com: It's your second UEFA Futsal EURO as Italy coach – what are your feelings at the eve of the tournament?
Roberto Menichelli: To be able to take part in the finals of a European Championship is very rewarding: it is satisfying on a personal level, and also for the players and the Italian federation as well. It is also very important for Italian futsal to have the national team in Croatia.
UEFA.com: How have things changed in the two years since the tournament in Hungary?
Menichelli: The last Futsal EURO represented the start of a technical renewal process; now we are in an advanced phase. The average age of the national team has been lowered, the young players are more used to playing and we have brought in Italian-born players. Gaining greater experience has helped their technical development too.
UEFA.com: How would you characterise the state of Italian futsal?
Menichelli: It's a good period, and what we have seen in the past year has confirmed that. [ASD Città di] Montesilvano won the UEFA Futsal Cup, the national team qualified for UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 and in December won their main round group in FIFA Futsal World Cup qualification. In 2011 Italy had some excellent results and maintained a good position in the FIFA rankings. It is a positive period, but now a new season has started and we will have to see if the trend will continue to be upwards.
UEFA.com: How do you rate your group?
Menichelli: There are only good teams at Futsal EURO. In the first match we have Turkey, a new team at this level, while Russia are a remarkable force that I think belong in the European elite. Whoever progresses from our group then takes on a side from the 'iron' group (containing Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia) in the quarter-finals. You have to say we don't have an easy path. You have to take the matches one by one: our first is against Turkey, it's their debut in this tournament but what happens on the pitch is what matters. We must pay maximum attention and remain focused to play a great game, which will give us momentum to face Russia with the highest belief and spirit.
UEFA.com: Who are your favourites for the tournament?
Menichelli: For what they have done in recent years, Spain are the strongest: they have proved it over a period of time and they deserve that status. Then there is a group of important teams, Portugal and the same can be said for Russia, another superpower.