Nazionale U19

A do-or-die clash for the Azzurrini against Spain in the European Championship. Merola: “We need to control matters”

Italy will have to win at the FFA Academy Stadium in Yerevan to qualify for the semi-finals

Friday, July 19, 2019

A do-or-die clash for the Azzurrini against Spain in the European Championship. Merola: “We need to control matters”

After their 4-0 win against hosts Armenia, the match against Spain at the FFA Academy Stadium in Yerevan will be another do-or-die clash for the Azzurrini. After drawing 1-1 with Portugal, the Spaniards are one point ahead of Italy, meaning the latter will have to win to reach the semi-finals. The last meeting between the sides was earlier on this year, with the Azzurrini, then coached by Federci Guidi, winning 3-0 at the Stadio Alberto Pinto in Caserta. Of course, the situation this time round is different: the match in January was a friendly, while Saturday’s fixture will decide who will continue their journey in the European Championship.

As opposed to the first match they lost against Portugal (3-0), Nunziata’s team managed to control matters against Armenia in a match where they looked well-organised and played with intensity. The Head Coach, who made four changes (Ferrarini, Raspadori, Petrelli and Merola all came in) to the side who lost to the Portuguese and also changed the team’s formation, was impressed with the performance: “We did well to control the match without giving anything away. Our physical condition isn’t perfect yet but this mental determination, especially in games like this, can do you the world of good.

One of the key players in the match against the hosts was Merola, who got on the scoresheet with a lovely back heel: “I always try things like this,” he said. “and it’s not the first time it’s worked out. But beyond this, it was important to get rhythm back in our play and show understanding with each other. We did what the Head Coach asked of us: press high and attack deep in the opposition half. The end result was there for all to see.”

As regards tomorrow’s match, there are no doubts: “Only one result will do: a win. We need to try to increase the intensity of our play from two days ago. It’ll be a different game compared to our last one: Spain are the favourites in this tournament and know how to impose their game. We can’t allow them to play and we need to be dictating things out on the pitch through the strength of our group.”

In keeping with the traditions of Spanish football, this Spain Under-19 team have excellent passing ability. Their Head Coach Santi Denia, who won the 2017 European Championship in Croatia with more or less the same side, usually lines his players up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Barcelona star Abel Ruiz providing a particular threat.
In the other group, France qualified for the semi-finals with a game to spare after narrowly overcoming the Republic of Ireland 1-0, thus building on the 3-0 win over the Czech Republic in their opening match.

In the afternoon, the Azzurrini completed their final preparations. All the players in the squad are available to the Head Coach.

Group A

Matchday One (Sunday 14 July)
Armenia 1-4 Spain
ITALY 0-3 Portugal

Matchday Two (Wednesday 17 July)
Portugal 1-1 Spain
Armenia 0-4 ITALY

Table: Spain and Portugal 4 points, ITALY 3, Armenia 0

Matchday Three (Saturday 20 July)
Portugal vs. Armenia: 19:00, Republican Stadium
Spain vs. Italy: 19:00, FFA Academy Stadium

Semi-finals (Wednesday 24 July)
16:00 Banants Stadium
19:00 Republican Stadium

Final (Saturday 27 July)
18:30: Republican Stadium

N.B. - The winner of Group A will face the runner-up from Group B and vice versa. The venues will be confirmed after the group stage.