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Confident Caldirola backs Italy to shine in Israel

With his team united by camaraderie and a hunger to succeed, Italy captain Luca Caldirola is convinced that the Azzurrini's "tight-knit group" can rise to the occasion in Israel.

Luca Caldirola speaks to the press at Milanello
Luca Caldirola speaks to the press at Milanello ©Getty Images

A standout figure in Italy's obstinate back-line, that was breached just eight times en route to finishing top of UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 7, captain Luca Caldirola is certain the Azzurrini's "tight-knit group" can flourish in next week's final tournament in Israel.

"Our togetherness is definitely a factor that gives us that crucial motivation to achieve our goals," said Caldirola, who plied his trade in Serie B with Brescia Calcio this season. "Everybody is working hard ahead of this tournament. We play England in the first match and I view this as our most important game because it is vital to start in the best possible manner."

A cultured centre-half of steely determination and enduring quality, Caldirola is one of five team-mates, including Francesco Bardi, Giulio Donati, Cristiano Biraghi and Matteo Bianchetti, who emerged from FC Internazionale Milano's academy. Indeed, it was a case of familiarity breeding success, while Caldirola missed just one of Italy's ten qualifying fixtures before steering his team to a 4-2 aggregate defeat of Sweden in the play-offs.

This year, the defender has grown in stature and cultivated an astute reading of the game during an invaluable second loan spell at Brescia. Rewarding Caldirola with the captaincy was consequently a straightforward decision for wily coach Devis Mangia. "It is always exciting to be wearing the captain's armband. It is a huge responsibility but also an honour and something that makes me very happy," the 22-year-old told UEFA.com.

Italy harness the confidence to go "all the way" according to Caldirola, yet he is not underestimating the task of negotiating a tricky section containing hosts Israel, England and Norway. "Every team involved at this stage is strong and all of them have what it takes to win the tournament. Spain and Germany are favourites on paper but you cannot ignore Norway, who beat France in the play-offs."