Friendly fire
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"Once the game starts, the friendship's put to one side." The quarter-final between Italy and Hungary in Suez at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2009 is the third all-European clash at the tournament in Egypt, and it will also be a showdown between two good friends - Italy's Mattia Mustacchio and Hungary's Vladimir Koman.      

"I know Koman from back when we were part of Sampdoria's youth team. He is a real friend of mine and he's also a great player," said Mustacchio in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.

"We did a lot together and shared a lot of common experiences. And then in 2008 we won the Campionato Primavera [youth competition for Italy's Serie A and B] together. I congratulated him on the win over the Czech Republic and we'll no doubt say hello to each other out on the pitch before the start of our match, but once the game starts, the friendship's put to one side. We'll both be going all out to win."

Knowing his friend Koman's strengths does not necessarily make Mustacchio's task any easier. "I only saw their match against the Czech Republic but I was impressed by their performance," he said. "They're very strong and they've got good players."

We're obviously hoping to make it into the final, but to do that we'll have to play perfect football.
Mattia Mustacchio, Italy forward.

While Koman scored a crucial equaliser to make it 2-2 in extra time against Czech Republic, Mustacchio has also been busy proving his worth to Italy's U-20 team, bagging a brace against hot favourites Spain to almost single-handedly book the Azzurrini's passage into the quarter-finals.

"Once we'd read the papers and seen the TV reports, we were even more excited than we were at the final whistle," Mustacchio continued. "Our win against Spain came as no surprise to me though. At the beginning of the tournament we had to get used to the conditions and to build up our confidence, and that's why the results weren't great. We've improved since then though and I'm totally convinced that we'll have a good World Cup here."

Hungary are the next obstacle in Italy's path, and they intend to keep their game plan very simple. "We're going to treat every match like it's a final - that's what our team's like. We're obviously hoping to make it into the final, but to do that we'll have to play perfect football," said the midfielder.

"The secret of our success is that we play as a very compact unit, and each player helps the others out. The World Cup is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your talent on the global stage. If we play well, we're bound to get more chances with our various club sides. I play for Ancona at the moment and I'm going to give it everything I've got for the team there."

'Musta', as his team-mates call him, is hoping for a long and successful career for club and country, and he knows that a win over the mini-Magyars is the next step on that path. "I've still got a long way to go, but I'm sure that working hard every day will help me. I hope that one day I'll make it."

Whatever happens against Hungary, Mustacchio knows what will happen at the final whistle: "I'll obviously go and swap shirts with Vladimir!"