Friday, 10 October 2008

[U21 Play-off] Giovinco issues rallying cry

Sebastian Giovinco has said he is ready for the "game of his life" as the five-time European champions Italy take on Israel in the first leg of their 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off in Ancona on Saturday.

Italy training"Two years of work and sacrifice are at stake," said the diminutive Juventus player. "We will not make the mistake of underestimating Israel because we know they are a good side.

"In September we were not at our best physically after playing at the Olympics, but now we're in fine form and we cannot make mistakes. We are ready to play the game of our lives.

"If we play as we know we can, we won't have any problems qualifying," he added.

Coach Pierluigi Casiraghi faces an injury crisis as it seems he has lost both Inter striking sensation Mario Balotelli and Juventus defender Paolo De Ceglie.

Balotelli was struck down with a virus and he looks likely to be replaced by Cagliari star Robert Acquafresca.

"I am always proud to play for the national side," Acquafresca said. "It means a lot to play because I feel like this is my team after scoring various goals during the qualification process so far.

"We can't underestimate our opponents because this game is worth two years of work."

De Ceglie, meanwhile, has sprained his ankle in training today and is doubtful for the first leg match.

Casiraghi was already without defender Fabiano Santacroce and forward Giuseppe Rossi, who have both been drafted into the senior squad by Marcello Lippi for the World Cup qualifiers against Bulgaria and Montenegro.

"Lippi is keeping his eyes open for young players and this is extra motivation for us," Atalanta midfielder Luca Cigarini said.

"But at the moment we must only focus on beating Israel and reaching the finals in Sweden."

Israel beat France in the play-offs to reach the final tournament for the first time in 2007 and will believe they can pull off another upset after finishing level with Germany in their qualifying group.

The return match wll take place in Tel Aviv next Wednesday.

2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship
Play-off First leg: Friday 10 October
Austria v Finland (Pasching, 1700)
Germany v France (Magdeburg, 1800)
Turkey v Belarus (Antalya, 1730)
Wales v England (Cardiff, 1945)
Play-off First leg: Saturday 11 October
Denmark v Serbia (Aalborg, 1530)
Italy v Israel (Ancona, 1500)
Switzerland v Spain (Aarau, 1900)
Play-off Second leg: Tuesday 14 October
Belarus v Turkey (Grodno, 1700)
England v Wales (Birmingham, 1945)
Finland v Austria (Turku, 1630)
Spain v Switzerland (TBA, 2030)
Play-off Second leg: Wednesday 15 October
France v Germany (Metz, TBA)
Israel v Italy (Tel Aviv, 1800)
Serbia v Denmark (Belgrade, 1700)

Source: UEFA

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