Ticino AMA, from Switzerland's southernmost canton, are in their second UEFA Regions' Cup final tournament in three editions and are aiming high.
Ticino AMA have been bringing some footballing joy to Switzerland's southernmost canton, which has been without a top-flight representative since FC Lugano went bankrupt in 2002. Having reached the finals of the 2003 UEFA Regions' Cup, Fabrizio Vavassori and Valerio Jemmi's Italian-speaking Swiss side are looking to shine again in Bulgaria.
Their current qualification was a little lucky. Belgrade AMA looked set to win the Group 6 mini-tournament in Azerbaijan on goal difference only for Ticino to have their 1-0 win against Tbilisi AMA upgraded to a 3-0 technical victory by UEFA's Control & Disciplinary body after their opponents fielded an ineligible player to take top spot.
Youth and experience
There is plenty of young talent in the Ticino side, like goalkeeper Michel Maconi, 20, but the soul of the team is 33-year-old defensive linchpin Nicola Gianotti from FC Ascona, who was previously a squad member at FC Zürich and FC Locarno. Their most dangerous striker is 32-year-old Andrea Beltraminelli, who scored three times in qualifying to add to the 20 goals he scored in 24 games for his club side Losone Sportiva this season.
Vavassori is also in charge of the Ticino Football Association's Under-14 side and is a great believer in mixing youth and experience. "The experienced players can guide the young ones, who bring in the commitment and passion," he explained.