The Azzurrini are aiming to emulate the achievement of their superiors at Germany 2006 by collecting the FIFA U-20 World Cup crown. Aside from the challenge of representing their country at a major finals, the tournament will also provide the young Italians with an opportunity to make themselves known to the world, although several members of the squad are already attached to some of the country's leading clubs.
Italy were mightily impressive en route to the UEFA European U-19 Championships, winning six qualifiers out of six, before advancing unbeaten to the final itself, where they went down to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Germany. Drawn into a very competitive Group B the Azzurrini beat tournament hosts Czech Republic 4-3 to end their unbeaten record and top the section. A 1-0 semi-final win over Hungary followed and despite coming off second best in the final, the Italians made Germany work hard for their win.
Now into his 50s, Francesco Rocca retired from the game when he was only 26 due to a serious injury. Prior to that point he had made 141 appearances for Roma in Serie A and 18 for the national team. After gaining his coaching qualifications, in 2006 he took charge of the U-19 and then the U-18 sides before being appointed to the U-20 job last year. Rocca made an immediate impact, safely guiding his young charges to Egypt 2009.
A tireless full-back who went by the nickname of Kawasaki, the former Giallorosso has managed to instil his enthusiasm and sense of discipline into his players. Not untypically for an Italian coach, Rocca's watchwords are realism and efficiency, and he has been advising his squad to glean all the experience they can in their bid to make the step up to the senior team.
Fabio Sciacca is a very promising offensive midfielder who plays his club football for Catania, where he made his Serie A debut in April 2009. Sciacca's good performances at senior level with Catania also ensured him a first call-up from the Italian U-20 team for a friendlyagainst Germany.
Michelangelo Albertazzi is a very talented central defender who has already been compared to Franco Baresi. He could have signed for Arsenal at the age of 16, but decided to stay with AC Milan where he's one of the most important players of their U-20 team.
- Italy were knocked out on penalties by Morocco in the quarter-finals of Netherlands 2005, the last time they appeared in the finals.
- The team's top scorer is Marco Materazzi with 12 goals.
What they said
"The experience the players acquire during these tournaments is very important for them, both on a personal and professional level." Italy coach Francesco Rocca
|7||Claudio DELLA PENNA|