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'Beautiful performance' the aim for Italy

Having reached the 2008 final but failed to get past last season's first stage, Italy coach Massimo Piscedda hopes to build on a strong showing in qualifying at this year's finals.

Italy coach Massimo Piscedda
Italy coach Massimo Piscedda ©Getty Images

Italy's UEFA European Under-19 Championship record is surprisingly inconsistent: winners of the second edition of the competition in 2003, they reached the final again two years ago, losing to Germany, but were eliminated in the 2008/09 qualifying round and, including this season, have appeared in only four of the nine final tournaments. Massimo Piscedda guided this season's squad into the finals on the back of a string of impressive displays, however, and the coach is optimistic of putting in a "beautiful performance" in France.

UEFA.com: Portugal, Croatia and Spain will be your rivals in Group B; what do you make of that draw?

Massimo Piscedda: Both groups are difficult as every team has a good chance of getting through to the semi-finals. It would have been the same if we had been in Group A or B. What is important is to make sure we come to the tournament in the best possible condition, physically and mentally. The other three teams are all strong at youth level and they've all got very good coaches. We know we will have three difficult and testing matches, but hopefully we can do well.

UEFA.com: What are your ambitions for the tournament?

Piscedda: Our hope is obviously to win the European Championship but right now every team has an equal chance of that. We'll aim for a beautiful performance. We have to make sure we finish in the first six teams in the ranking overall so that we qualify for next year's [FIFA U-20] World Cup. That's our first aim.

UEFA.com: You won your first five qualifying games to reach the finals with a match to spare; how big a boost was that?

Piscedda: We were very strong throughout qualification. The elite round in Russia was very tough for us, in different conditions and new situations – but we came through, and that's very important for us.

UEFA.com: Having missed out on the finals a year ago, what does it mean to Italy to be here this time round?

Piscedda: It's so important for our players to qualify for this tournament. They're at a decisive age at the moment – they're stepping up from junior football to become senior players, and it's vital they get as much experience as they can at this age.