Thursday, 18 December 2008

[U21] Casiraghi ready to seize second chance

Italy coach Pierluigi Casiraghi hopes his second shot at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship will be more successful than his first as he looks to add to the Azzurrini's five titles in Sweden next June.

The Azzurrini failed to get beyond the group stage in the Netherlands last year, but the former Lazio striker believes the experience he gained from that tournament could help him this time around.

"Normally if you have more experience you should commit fewer errors, but it's not always like that," he told the UEFA website.

"Much depends on which players you have at your disposal and the physical condition they are in after a long season. It's a competition which grows from year to year and is becoming more interesting. Qualifying was a great achievement for our youngsters. Winning, though, is never easy."

Italy opened the 2007 tournament with 1-0 defeat against Serbia and will have the chance to gain revenge when they kick off their Group A campaign against the Balkan nation, before subsequent fixtures against hosts Sweden and Belarus.

"That match meant we missed out on qualifying," Casiraghi recalls. "I hope we will be able to get revenge for that. The first match in a competition like this is always the most important."

Casiraghi said the game against Sweden would not be "easy at all" and also insisted Belarus should not be taken lightly despite being "less well known".

"I think it's a strange group with fewer famous names than in the other one, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easier."

Italy are normally at their best against the traditional powerhouses and Casiraghi admitted he would have preferred to be in Group B with Spain, England, Germany and Finland.

"We would have loved to be in the other group, the apparently more difficult one," he said.

"For us as a team it would have been better to play teams like Germany, Spain or England. Of course it's fine like this as all eight participating teams are strong. [Ours] is also a tough group to face."

Though two of his key players, Sebastian Giovinco and Mario Balotelli, are finding playing time hard to come by with their respective clubs, Juventus and Inter, Casiraghi does not believe their form for the Azzurrini might dip.

"I hope the Under-21 side will become 'their' team, because they face tough competition at their clubs," he said.

"This team could become an important spot for them, being an open door to Europe and to the world. So this [situation] could actually give them great motivation to fight for this team at the European Championship."

[Euro 2009 Draw]

Source: UEFA

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