Exclusive: Davina Philtjens on Sassuolo’s Coppa Clash With Milan

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In the first leg of their quarter-final clash, Davina Philtjens scored a last-minute equaliser to set up a mouth-watering second leg this weekend.

Belgian defender Davina Philtjens has played in every Serie A game this season for Sassuolo. Her first goal came in the Coppa Italia however, and what an important one it was.

“It was such a great feeling scoring my first one in overtime,” she told Her Football Hub.

Fiorentina vs Sassuolo

Having spent two seasons at Fiorentina, Philtjens joined Sassuolo last summer. Before last campaign was interrupted, her last game for the Viola came against her new club.

“First of all I want to say that I had two nice years at Fiorentina,” she said. “But it was clear to me that I didn’t fit into their plans. So it was time for me to leave.

A teammate recommended me to Sassuolo and I had a good conversation with the coach and the team. I liked the project of Sassuolo and I have to say I rediscovered the pleasure of playing football here again. I play with young talented players who want to learn every day to improve.”

Philtjens joined another Belgium international at the club, goalkeeper Diede Lemey.

“It helped to integrate a little faster,” she admitted. “But the other players already knew me a little because we played against each other. They welcomed me with open arms. Some of them said that it’s better to have me in the team than against.”

New Horizons

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After playing in her home country with Tienen and Standard Liege, Philtjens first spent two seasons with Ajax. Then came her move to Italy and Serie A.

“I always wanted to see if I was good enough to play in a foreign team. I wanted to push myself more and more and to show people that I could. Because I always believed I could. I just had to work hard for it.”

Life is good in Italy for Philtjens and she’s also mastered the language.

“The weather is the best thing! I also like the kindness of the Italian people,” she admitted. “Also then there’s the food and of course the coffee. I go almost every morning to a little bar close to my home to get a coffee.

“With the language you just have to try to speak it. Don’t hesitate to make mistakes. The more you speak it the more it will come. And of course they help you if you say something wrong. I also had an Italian teacher.”

One Of The Boys

Like a lot of players, Davina started off playing football with the boys before finding a girl’s team to join.

“I started playing football because of my big brother. He played a lot in the garden with his friends and I always wanted to play with them. I was five years old when I started playing for the team in my town. It was a boys team and I was the only girl.

“I played there with the boys team until my 15th birthday and then I went to play in a woman’s team. They played in the 2nd division in Belgium.”

Euro Experience

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The defender was a member of the Belgium team that took part in the 2017 EUROs in the Netherlands. Thousands of Belgian fans made the short trip to cheer on their team. They were able to witness a famous win over a fancied Norwegian side.

“Every title and cup you win is always special but playing the EUROs in the Netherlands was extra special,” Philtjens said. “It was my first EUROs. Playing close to home with all our fans there was fantastic, and winning against such a big team as Norway. It was so beautiful.”

Back in Belgium and then with Ajax, Philtjens won plenty of trophies. In her time with Fiorentina she also won the Supercoppa. That has also brought her plenty of experience in the Champions League. How far can this Sassuolo team go?

“I’m a very ambitious person but we also have a young team. A young team that’s already mature but also still needs to learn a lot. We are doing well now but we need to keep working hard. We will see how far it will takes us.

“I think for us now it’s important to take it one game at a time. I don’t think a lot of people ever imagined that Sassuolo would have done this well already. This team is growing fast and that’s good. But we don’t need to put too much pressure on ourselves.”

Coppa Chances

Which brings us to this weekend’s big game. A confident Philtjens feels that her team has every chance of getting past Milan and into the semi-finals.

“Yes I think we can. We just have to stay focused and do our own thing. We have a great team and we will fight for it until the last second.”

The second leg away to AC Milan takes place this Saturday at 1:30pm GMT.

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