Injury cut defender Roberta Filippozzi's campaign short last term but she has been making up for lost time, marking her first game as striker and captain with her first goal – she is not done yet.
Article top media content
It has been a memorable 48 hours for defender-cum-striker Roberta Filippozzi. She marked her debut as Azzurrine captain with her maiden international goal and, in her "first real interview", tells UEFA.com about her excitement ahead of another first: the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship semi-finals.
Italy sealed progress as Group A winners with a game to spare after back-to-back victories against Russia and Switzerland, allowing Corrado Corradini to rest players for the encounter with Belgium on Sunday. Short of a forward, he asked for volunteers and one hand rose higher than the rest. "I have always played at centre-back so it was an upheaval to play in attack," explained Filippozzi.
"The coach wanted to rest players without using those who had been previously booked, so I told him I was available. I gave my best and was also fortunate enough to score." Her goal gave the tournament hosts the lead as they came from behind to win 3-1. "It was good to keep morale high," she said. "I was more surprised about the captaincy. I think it went well but it's not easy replacing Martina [Rosucci]. She's a real leader and has been with this team since 2008 when we won this trophy."
Italy defeated Norway to claim that maiden title and the sides meet again in the last four on Wednesday in Bellaria. Influential midfielder Rosucci will be back in the team, while Filippozzi returns to the heart of the defence to face a side that have scored eight goals in their past two games. "I watched some of their matches," the defender said. "They're physically strong but also have players with great technique. We will give our all to win. We play in Italy, we wear the Azzurri shirt and we want to honour it."
If Italy are to reach the final they may have to do something no other team in the tournament has done so far: silence Norway striker Melissa Bjånesøy, top scorer in Emilia-Romagna with five goals. "We need to avoid the game becoming a physical duel by keeping the ball on the ground and avoiding dangerous set pieces close to our penalty box," said Filippozzi. "Many of their players are good on the air."
Norway may have the best attack but Italy have the meanest defence alongside Germany and Switzerland. "We have conceded twice and both were really cheap but mistakes happen," she added. "Our midfield is watertight with [Claudia] Mauri and [Michela] Franco playing just ahead of us: it would be much tougher without their precious help."
Last year a serious knee injury forced Filippozzi to withdraw from the Italy squad after the first game of the tournament, a 4-1 defeat by Germany. "I was very sad when I had to leave so soon," she recalled. "I'm enjoying a kind of revenge this year, and for the perfect revenge we will have to reach the final and beat Germany. To win [on home soil] would be crazy."