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EURO 2016 QUALIFIERS

GERMAN

German-born Soriano awaits dream Italy debut

German-born Sampdoria midfielder Roberto Soriano confirmed his full allegiance to Italy on Tuesday as he prepares for a possible Azzurri debut against Croatia in a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier.

German-born Soriano awaits dream Italy debut
German-born Sampdoria midfielder Roberto Soriano is looking forward to his debut with Italy. Photo: Steve Chiefa

Soriano, who has been one of the revelations of a high-flying Sampdoria team this season, started his youth career with Bayern Munich after being born in Germany to Italian parents.

But the 23-year-old told reporters at Italy's Coverciano training base on Tuesday: "I'm happy to be among the squad, it's a dream come true. I was born in Germany but I've always felt Italian.

"For every young Italian player it's a dream to pull on the blue jersey."

Come next January, Soriano could be swapping another blue jersey, that of Sampdoria, for the white, black and orange of Valencia.

Recent reports said the La Liga side have been watching Soriano's progress closely and could table an offer in the January transfer window.

For now, Soriano said he is fully focused on Sunday's crucial Group H clash against the table-topping Croatians, who like Italy remain unbeaten after three opening qualifiers.

Italy host Albania in a friendly in Genoa on Tuesday, where the match proceeds will go to the flood-stricken city. In recent weeks players from both Sampdoria and Genoa have lent a helping hand in trouble zones in a bid to boost morale.

Although Soriano and fellow-Italy squad debutant Andrea Bertolacci (Genoa) are hoping to lift spirits on Tuesday, their focus is fully on Croatia.

"Genoa is like my city. It's normal that we're a little worried about what's happened there," added Soriano.

"But we're here to prepare for Sunday's game. On Tuesday we will try give what we can and offer a great show for those who have lost so much."

Bertolacci said: "The important game is Sunday. Tuesday should be a celebration. It's a tough period for Genoa right now. The rain is still coming down, I hope the fans will turn out to see us."

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IMMIGRATION

Italy holds migrant rescue ship as hundreds land

Italian authorities held a migrant rescue boat for 12 hours after it brought more than 230 people to a port in south western Italy following a four-day ordeal on the high seas, an NGO said on Sunday.

Italy holds migrant rescue ship as hundreds land
Migrants rescued by Sea-Watch 3 in November 2017. Photo: Alessio Paduano/AFP

German NGO Sea-Watch said in a statement that their boat Sea-Watch 3 was held until gone midnight on Saturday after arriving at the port at Reggio Calabria with 232 people onboard.

Italian police questioned the boat captain for more than four hours, according to the NGO, and journalists travelling on the vessel were asked to hand over video footage of the rescue operation, which took place on June 5th.

“The political attacks against us are not only endangering us, but those in maritime distress,” the NGO tweeted. “After 12 hours stuck in port, without a comprehensible reason given by the authorities, while there were 6 SAR-Cases on the Mediterranean Sea, we finally set sails to SAR.”

SAR stands for search and rescue operations.

Sea-Watch said police also questioned some of the rescued migrants from the boat. After being processed by the authorities they are likely to end up in migrant reception centres.

The holding of the boat comes after Italy's new anti-immigrant government pledged to slow down landings and speed up expulsions of migrants illegally in the country.

“If anyone thinks I won't move a muscle while we have another summer of landings, landings and more landings, well that's not what i'm going to do,” said new Interior Minster Matteo Salvini from the far-right League party on Saturday.

Sea-Watch said it had requested help from the coastguard in Malta to send boats to aid the rescue mission last week but Malta refused.

Salvini has previously lambasted neighbouring Malta for not doing more to help deal with would-be asylum seekers — a charge Malta has denied.

While Sea-Watch 3 was being held in Reggio Calabria, fellow NGO SOS Mediterranee rescued 629 people in six separate night-time operations in the Mediterranean.

The French organisation said that of those saved and brought on board its ship Aquarius on Saturday night, 123 are unaccompanied minors, 11 are small children and seven are pregnant women.

They are currently heading north in search of a secure port at which to dock.