"Italy have finally arrived," declared striker Ilaria Mauro after coming off the bench to register her maiden international goal in the Azzurre's morale-boosting 2-1 defeat of Denmark.
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After opening her international account in timely fashion, predatory striker Ilaria Mauro sent out an ominous message to Italy's UEFA Women's EURO 2013 rivals by declaring that her team have "arrived" in Sweden.
Frustrations were mounting after the Azzurre failed to turn prolonged spells of possession into goals during their opening Group A stalemate with Finland. Antonio Cabrini's charges nonetheless persevered with a metronomic passing game and were vindicated in their approach on Saturday when Melania Gabbiadini's deflected effort made Denmark's net bulge ten minutes after the interval.
The breakthrough in Halmstad eased a palpable pressure, yet better was to come when Mauro – two minutes after coming off the bench – followed up Patrizio Panico's parried header and powered past Stina Petersen. "I think I scored with my first touch and it was my first goal for the national team. I definitely chose the right time to score," the UPC Tavagnacco player told UEFA.com.
"I was very satisfied with my performance and I didn't expect to score," added the unassuming 25-year-old, whose ultimate concern is tied to the fortunes of the team. "In such a tournament, you always hope to score but the priority is to give your all for the team. The emotions were running high and I dedicated the goal to my team, the coaching staff and all my friends."
It was all change in the Italy camp when Cabrini succeeded Pietro Ghedin at the helm just a month before they sealed their place in the finals. One constant, however, remains the unmistakable values that instil hunger and pride when pulling on the national jersey. "Whether you play the final few minutes or half an hour, you have to give everything until the end: this is the winning mentality every player has, to always be prepared," said Mauro. "The Denmark game was a fairly balanced affair, so to score such an important goal gave the team a great deal of belief."
Italy go into their final Group A assignment with Sweden needing a point to progress, and Mauro expects the hosts – who made an eye-catching statement of intent by sending five unanswered goals past Finland last time out – to provide a stern examination of their credentials. "Sweden are a very strong team and, with home advantage, they can make life even more difficult for you," said Mauro, whose team-mates are confident they can pip Wednesday's opponents to top spot.
"We can't wait to play the next game because Italy have finally arrived and confidence has grown so much within the group. The Denmark victory has spurred us on for the Sweden match. Everyone believes we can win this group."