Ahead of the UEFA European U17 Championship final UEFA.com talks to Russia and Italy's coaches about their football philosophy and life in the dugout. First up, Daniele Zoratto.
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Daniele Zoratto has guided Italy to a maiden UEFA European Under-17 Championship final, and to within reach of the trophy which could be the first fruits of a coaching structure newly implemented by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC). Ahead of the showpiece, he sits down with UEFA.com to talk about his role in the plan, his philosophy, and how it is far more difficult in the dugout than on the pitch.
UEFA.com: How would you describe your football philosophy?
Daniele Zoratto: It is a philosophy acquired over time, I would say particularly in recent years. It is a philosophy which we have not defined ourselves, but our coordinators have drawn up a path which we have followed with ideas of our own. They have asked for specific things, specific tactical concepts like keeping things tight, pressing, aggression, intensity of play, quick passing – and, on the basis of this input, we have created our current squad.
UEFA.com: What is your approach to coaching young players?
Zoratto: It is not a different way of coaching. There is a method. You train to achieve the aims I mentioned before, which are clearly defined concepts – and, with specific training, we try to play that kind of football. With all our national team selections, everything is channelled in the same direction. Of course, within this structure, you need the individuality, the ability of a player to score, but all this happens within the framework of the kind of football we want our national team players to apply.
UEFA.com: What is the benefit of a tournament like the U17 finals for a young player?
Zoratto: It is immensely beneficial. To get here, we have taken part in [qualifying] tournaments which have given us the awareness that this side could do something big. We had hoped this could happen and then, game after game, the players gained a degree of self-confidence and they have seen the methodology is working. Now, they trust us blindly about what they have to do on the field because the results are proving us right.
UEFA.com: And as a coach, what have you learned from these finals?
Zoratto: From this tournament, I have learned that to reach the final is really, really difficult. Difficult, because all of the sides have a lot of strength. There is not one opponent you can say "today we can take it easy" against. They do not exist. All these games are played until the very last minute, with your heart, sacrifice, ability and hunger, and some of these games have shown that these boys are actually men.
UEFA.com: How useful has your playing career been in your role as a coach?
Zoratto: To have played yourself helps with your sensitivity in understanding players in certain moments. That means that a player cannot always be the machine you want him to be. You cannot always ask for pressing. Having played myself, I know that during the game you need breaks due to the difficulty of facing your opponents, and also due to tiredness, so what you ask for cannot always be delivered.
UEFA.com: Who has had the biggest influence on you as a coach?
Zoratto: At the moment, certainly our technical coordinators Arrigo Sacchi and Mr [Maurizio] Viscidi, because they are the ones giving us the input and the path to follow. Apart from the fact I have known Sacchi since 1979 so I know the way he thinks. He, effectively, is a person who has laid out the roadmap for us.
He has told us what international football is about. I knew international football only as a player, but it is different knowing it as a player compared with knowing it as a coach. He explained to us well, over time – because this is the third year we have worked together – what you need to make progress internationally, which is a totally contrasting philosophy to the one we have in our domestic league. The work is very, very tiring.
UEFA.com: As a former international player, is it more draining being on the pitch for 90 minutes or in the technical area?
Zoratto: It is definitely more tiring as a coach. I coped on my own as a player. In the technical zone, you have got to deal with lots of people, not just those on the field, but also those off it. Everybody has something to say so you have to take it all in and manage all that. When you are a footballer, you put your boots on and go out and play, with your team-mates and against your opponents. It is far easier.