Lausanne, Switzerland, May 12, 2016 – Italy’s women’s team are aiming to qualify for the Olympic Games for the fifth straight time when they compete in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Tokyo, which starts on Saturday.
In fact, Italy kick off the entire tournament with a match against Korea at 10 a.m. local time (01:00 GMT) on Saturday.
Like some of his colleagues, coach Marco Bonitta had a tough decision in making the final cut to reduce the number of players to 14. Valentina Diouf was the unlucky player, but Bonitta told La Gazzetta dello Sport that he was confident he had the right blend of youth and experience in his squad.
“We’ve already got our first triumph in bringing together a squad with a spread of 15 years – 20 if you count the 37 years of Piccinini and the 17 of Egonu,” Bonitta said. “The youngsters need the support and expertise of the most experienced players, while the seniors recognize the importance of the strength and energy of our young players in this tournament.”
Italy left for Japan on May 5 to make sure they were acclimatised before the start of the competition.
“The work done in these days convinced me that it was right to leave early for Japan,” Bonitta explained. “Many of the players only had two or three days’ rest – De Gennaro and Ortolani only one – but the squad is well-focused on their goal. Even in Europe’s pre-Olympic competition in Ankara in January, the schedule wasn’t easy, but the group did well to bring out their best despite those difficulties, and we’ll do the same here in Japan.”
The coach remains cautiously optimistic.
“We have a good chance of gaining an Olympic berth,” he stated. “But it will not be easy. Japan when playing at home are very difficult to overcome, while South Korea have been preparing for two months. And we can’t forget the Netherlands.” In addition, they will face Thailand, the Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan and Peru.
The Olympic Qualifying Tournament runs from May 14 to 22.