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Italy's Neboli: Germany not so stellar

Italy defender Laura Neboli has faced pretty much all the Germany team in her time with FCR 2001 Duisburg and thinks Sunday's quarter-final rivals are "not as stellar as four years ago".

Italy have Germany in their sights
Italy have Germany in their sights ©Sportsfile

As the only member of Italy's squad to play her football in the Frauen-Bundesliga, FCR 2001 Duisburg defender Laura Neboli is better placed than perhaps any of her team-mates to analyse Sunday's quarter-final opponents Germany.

None of Silvia Neid's squad currently ply their trade for the 2009 UEFA Women's Cup winners, but, since joining in 2011, Neboli has played alongside Annike Krahn, Luisa Wensing and Simone Laudehr as well as against pretty much all the opponents the 25-year-old will come up against in Vaxjo. Neboli spoke to UEFA.com about who she sees as Germany's dangers and the "desire for revenge" after their narrow 2-1 quarter-final loss to the eventual champions in Lahti in 2009, when she was also in the squad.

UEFA.com: You may have been expecting to face Norway as Group B runners-up; what do you think about playing Germany instead?

Laura Neboli: In a UEFA Women's EURO, when you reach the quarter-finals you face very strong teams: Germany and Norway are almost the same, and France would be the only team a bit tougher. Germany are a strong and organised team, but I don't consider them as stellar as four years ago. I think they are more beatable. If we play our game at 100%, we can have our say.

UEFA.com: Why are they not as stellar?

Neboli: They are young; they had some regulars who picked up injuries during the build-up to the tournament and it's not easy to replace players who have that amount of experience. The young girls have great quality, but they still don't have the mentality and ability to use their physicality like more experienced players.

UEFA.com: Who are their danger players?

Neboli: [Célia] Okoyino da Mbabi scores when she has a chance: she's aggressive, determined, with a nose for goal. Lena Lotzen has quality and pace as well. The unpredictability and creativity of their young players – I'm thinking, for example, of Dzsenifer Marozsán – might take us by surprise. Not knowing them as well as the others, plus their impudence, might put us in trouble.

UEFA.com: Is what happened in 2009 a motivation for this match?

Neboli: Yes, there is a great desire for revenge. Four years ago, we were undeservedly eliminated, with a great chance in added time that their goalkeeper saved. I think we can do the job; we can play our own cards all the way. The three group matches made our confidence grow, and we gained awareness of our abilities. The young players are growing in confidence and I think we can really do well.

UEFA.com: How far can Italy go?

Neboli: We're now convinced that if we can stay focused for 90 minutes, we can have our say against anyone. We also controlled Sweden well in the first half; in the second, after a 15-minute blackout, we kept on playing. The conditions are good. We have to be compact, and go on the counterattack with [Melania] Gabbiadini and [Patrizia] Panico. The important thing is to be able to stay attentive and focused; nothing can be left to chance.