Big ambitions for young Italy

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EHF / Adrian Costeiu

Back in July 2021, Italy women’s youth team were celebrating lifting the trophy at the W19 EHF Championship, with a 27:25 win over Lithuania, as Giulia Fabbo and Ramona Manojlovic both scored eight goals for the “Azzurri”.

It was a win that brought Italy a wild card at the 2022 IHF Women's Junior World Championship, where the side finished in 29th place from 32 teams, but players like Fabbo and Manojlovic earned plenty of experience, easing their transition to the senior team.

Now, Fabbo, who was named the All-Star right back at the W19 EHF Championship 2021, will be spearheading the senior national team in their quest to make their comeback at the IHF Women’s World Championship for the first time since 2001, when they took part as hosts.

“It is always an honour to wear the national team shirt, to represent Italy, especially when it comes down to important games, like these ones,” says Fabbo.

“We are a very young team, with plenty of players who are just appearing on the big stage, but there are also some experienced players which help the team gel. Our Federation has focused a lot on improving young players and creating the right system and slowly, but surely, handball is improving. I think we are on the right track.”

Indeed, Italy have been getting better and better, their performances underlined by the win at the W19 EHF Championship 2021, where Fabbo was also included in the “Respect Your Talent” programme, where the best young players are nurtured by the EHF, with their on and off the court skills refined.

“Playing in international competitions has surely been a big part of my growth, because it is crucial to play against other national teams. But now, step by step, being in the senior squad is an amazing feature and an amazing feeling,” adds Fabbo.

But the real improvement for Italy’s back came at club level, where she was scouted and snatched up by Metz Handball, a team that is constantly vying for a berth in the EHF FINAL4 and just won their group in this season of the EHF Champions League Women, securing wins against powerhouses like Györ and Team Esbjerg, including an away win against the Hungarian side, the first home loss for Györ in over seven years in the premier European competition.

After scoring one goal in the EHF Champions League Women this season, Fabbo has been loaned to fellow French side OGC Nice, which has further helped develop the young player.

“Playing for Metz, at least for me, it was a dream. Playing alongside excellent players and having the chance to train with them on a daily basis, it is a huge performance and one of the highlights of my career,” adds Fabbo.

But back to the national team, as Fabbo is now representing Italy in a crunch doubleheader against Slovenia with a 2023 World Championship berth on the line. Surely, Slovenia are big favourites, having finished eighth at EHF EURO 2022 and with plenty of talent and experience in the squad.

However, Italy, as an emerging nation, will be surely trying to spring a surprise or two, especially in the first game, which will be hosted at the “House of Handball” in Chieti.

“We know very well that Slovenia is a very strong opponent at European level. We are getting ready for these two matches and we will try to put Slovenia in as much difficulty as possible, hoping to continue our growth path as a national team".

“We are working a lot as a team to develop and, of course, sealing a berth for a major tournament is a good step in this development. I cannot know if we are able to do it, but if we work like this, we will surely be close,” adds Fabbo.

The 19-year-old back will surely be a prime player to watch in the future, having already learnt handball in one of the most competitive systems in Europe, the French one, while also receiving some much-needed help via the “Respect Your Talent” programme.

One might note down this name for the future and remember the start, when Italy were not a powerhouse. However, with the expansion of the EHF EURO to 24 teams from 2024 onwards, Italy will have a better chance of reaching a major tournament.

“It is a dream, surely, not only for me, but for all the players in the team and for the Italian handball. We will do everything we can to be there in the future,” concludes Fabbo.

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