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Giuliani repays Corradini gamble with interest

Keeper Laura Giuliani only heard she was playing in the hours before Italy's opener with Russia, but after an early error left her "feeling like dying" the 17-year-old rewarded the leap of faith.

Italy goalkeeper Laura Giuliani poses at tournament headquarters in Cervia
Italy goalkeeper Laura Giuliani poses at tournament headquarters in Cervia ©Sportsfile

If mental strength is an important quality for any goalkeeper, Italy's Laura Giuliani showed she has deep reserves in Monday's 2-1 victory over Russia in the opening game of the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship.

Her lapse on 13 minutes led to Russia's equaliser after Italy had taken an early lead through Katia Coppola. However, Giuliani made amends in style with great saves before and after Lisa Alborghetti's second-half winner. "I felt like dying," Giuliani told UEFA.com. "It was a big mistake and it came at exactly the wrong time because we were playing with such verve and enthusiasm after taking the lead.

"I immediately started to ponder the possible consequences but then I thought that we still had most of the game to go," she continued. "That mistake spurred me on to play better. I told myself that nothing else would get past me; I had to become a wall. I also remembered how hard I worked to get here, to play in this game, and that thought gave me even more strength."

In fact Italy coach Corrado Corradini admitted he only decided Giuliani would start a few hours before the game. "I took my pen out to write down the lineup and I started with a G without thinking," he said. "Then I just continued writing down Giuliani's name."

The 17-year-old added: "There was a big question mark over who the first-choice goalkeeper was. I joined this team with a great desire to play and when I saw my name on the coach's blackboard it was an immense joy. I did not expect that until four days ago. I gave everything I had in every single training session."

Giuliani grew and grew in stature after her error, keeping out a couple of Snezhana Kobeleva efforts in the first half and denying Anna Cholovyaga in a one-on-one situation just before Alborghetti's goal. However, the hairiest moment, she says, was a Russia corner deep into added time. "You can make saves, but it happens so quickly you soon forget.

"But that final corner with all Russia players in our penalty box, you feel butterflies in your stomach because you know you have to make the ball yours; one small mistake and you can change the outcome of the game. Those final seconds were the most important and stressful of the whole game."

On Thursday Italy face a Switzerland side that started Group A with a 4-1 victory over Belgium. "Winning the first match is very important because it gives you confidence for subsequent games," said Giuliani. "We have already proved wrong the people who thought we were going to lose every single game here. Nobody can take our desire to compete away from us. The game against Switzerland will show how strong we really are."

Giuliani admits that Group B, featuring Germany, Norway, Netherlands and Spain, is stronger but she believes Italy can go all the way and repeat their 2008 success. "We were lucky at the draw, but we would have fought even if we had to face the most difficult opponents," she said. "We have faith in ourselves. Let's qualify for the semi-finals and get on a roll. Once you play with spirit nobody can stop you."