Italy's fun road to success
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Lisa Boattin and Flaminia Simonetti have become two integral members of the Italian side at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014, but FIFA.com took the duo out of their comfort zone ahead of Italy’s quarter-final with Ghana.

Armed with voice recorders and a list of questions they had compiled, Italy’s captain Boattin and midfield maestro Simonetti interrogated their coach Enrico Sbardella and clearly enjoyed doing so, passing notes to each other under the table so the 39-year-old couldn’t read the questions before they had asked them.

Sixteen-year-old Boattin did not hold back with the first question, asking her coach how he felt about having to say goodbye to them when they eventually move up a level. “It’s very sad,” admitted Sbardella. “It’s strange – we only started together a couple of years ago [in January 2012] and now, just as you’re starting to improve, we’re about to go our different ways.”

Sbardella’s answer is proof of the strong bond that exists between the coach and his players, who get on very well both on and off the pitch. Little wonder, then, that there was plenty of laughing and joking during the interview. Asked about the strengths of his side, the coach praised his team’s balance between defence and attack, before adding that it is much more important “for the team to be strong not just in a football sense, but that the players also get on well with each other”.

Sbardella revealed the Italians are living the dream at their first ever appearance at the U-17 tournament, but the two girls were keen to find out what he has learned during the finals. “That you can achieve a lot with love, passion and hard work,” explained the coach. “You are rewarded for the effort you put in. I’ve also learned how bad a coach I was ten years ago!”

Beyond the quarters?
The Azzurrine qualified for the last eight as runners up in their group after victories over Zambia, hosts Costa Rica and a defeat to group winners Venezuela. Ghana now await in the quarter-finals, and Simonetti wanted to know what the coach was expecting from the game. “You tell me, you’re the ones on the pitch,” he laughed. “I’m approaching this game in a calm and content manner. We were one of the teams that played good football in the group stage and I’m feeling confident. I will enjoy the game from the dugout.”

After the girls had completed their list of questions, the coach was determined to try his hand at interviewing. Rubbing his hands with a mischievous grin on his face, he asked his players what they had learned during their time with the national team. “I have become more mature, both as a person and as a player,” said Boattin, who has been inspired by Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini. “I have met many great people in this team.”

When asked about her favourite player, Simonetti answered like a shot: “Francesco Totti!” The 17-year-old also revealed that she would like to play abroad professionally one day.

Simonetti then assumed the role of interviewer for a final time so she could ask her coach what he would do if Italy were to win the tournament in Costa Rica. “I haven’t thought about that yet,” Sbardella conceded. “We have to play very well to reach the final, but first it’s the quarter-final. We’ll definitely have to do something fun if we reach the final though.” The girls immediately suggested dying his hair blonde, which resulted in yet more laughter.

The Italians are clearly in fine fettle and are approaching their next challenge in a positive mood. “We’re here, so we want to play right until the end and win,” proclaimed Boattin. They certainly are, and they are not lacking in confidence either.