Nazionale U21

Euro 2019, Italy beaten by Poland. Saturday’s match against Belgium set to be decisive

The Azzurrini fail to find a way through a tough Polish rearguard and are punished by a goal from Bielik. Di Biagio: “I can’t fault the lads but now things have become more complicated”

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Euro 2019, Italy beaten by Poland. Saturday’s match against Belgium set to be decisive

Italy’s journey in the Under-21 European Championship has suffered a hitch. After their win in the opening game against Spain, the Azzurrini were narrowly defeated in Bologna this evening by Poland, the surprise package of the tournament and the front-runners in Group A. This is a loss that means Di Biagio’s side will have to win their next fixture on Saturday against Belgium at all costs.

In the event that Italy, Poland and Spain finish on the same number of points, their head-to-head results take precedence, with the standings then being decided on goal difference and then goals scored after that, all in the context of their respective records against each other. This scenario might also need to be assessed in relation to the results of the other groups, who still have to take to the pitch for the second matchday.

As for this evening’s match, prior to kick-off the Italian Head Coach had referred to it as a round of 16 tie. With Spain having beaten Belgium earlier on in the afternoon, a win at the Dall’Ara would have guaranteed the Azzurrini’s place in the semi-finals of the Under-21 European Championship and a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The last meeting between these sides was in March 2017, when Italy were 2-1 victors in a friendly in Krakow. Lorenzo Pellegrini was one of the players who got on the scoresheet that day.

Di Biagio made four changes to the side who defeated Spain. Meret retained his place in goal, while Adjapong and Bastoni came into the team and joined Mancini and Dimarco in defence. In midfield, a trio of Barella, Mandragora and Pellegrini was selected, while Orsolini, Cutrone and Chiesa lined up up front.

The 5-4-1 formation chosen by Michniewicz was a clear sign of what he wanted to do tactically, and it was Italy who looked to take the game to Poland right from the opening stages. The Azzurrini made numerous early attempts to get through the tough Polish rearguard, with Di Biagio’s side opting to go down the wings on a number of occasions in particular. However, Italy had to wait until the 27th minute for their first clear-cut chance as Grabara produced a fantastic save to deny Chiesa.

The Azzurrini kept pushing forward and almost took the lead through Mandragora, but he unfortunately scuffed his shot wide after great play by Chiesa. Italy camped in Poland’s half but were punished during their best spell following a Polish free kick: the ball fell to Bielik, who took Meret by surprise and unexpectedly broke the deadlock for the Poles.

The Azzurrini looked to respond immediately in front of a shocked Dall’Ara. And it looked like their pressure had paid dividends when Orsolini found the back of the net, but the goal was ruled out for offside following a VAR check.

Italy thus found themselves one down at the break as Di Biagio brought on Kean for the unfortunate Bologna man at the interval. After the restart, the match continued in the same vein as the first half. Between the 50th and 53rd minute, Pellegrini, Chiesa and Bastoni all came close to netting an equaliser for the Azzurrini. Michniewicz’s team tried to relieve the pressure being put on them by countering through Kownacki and Zurkowski, but Di Biagio’s men kept on pushing forward as the game entered the final 15 minutes. With 75 minutes on the clock, Pellegrini’s thunderous effort smacked the woodwork as Poland’s goal continued to live a charmed life. As the match was drawing to a close, Italy’s Head Coach brought on Zaniolo (who was booked, meaning he’ll miss the game against Belgium) and went to a back three in the hope it might lead to a goal. However, it wasn’t to be for Italy, with Poland ultimately emerging victorious and securing their second consecutive Group A victory. As regards the Azzurrini, it all comes down to Saturday’s clash against an already eliminated Belgium side (21:00 CEST in Reggio Emilia).

“We’re disappointed with how the game went,” said Head Coach Di Biagio after the final whistle. “But this is football, well done to them. I can’t fault the lads except for not finishing off the chances we created. In the first half, there was more intensity. Now, securing qualification has become more complicated.”

Azzurrini captain Rolando Mandragora was also disappointed following the defeat: “I had a chance that didn’t go how I wanted it to. We created a lot in the first half but weren’t able to take our opportunities. It can’t just be put down to bad luck, from tomorrow we’ll get back down to work. We hope to put in a great performance on Saturday against Belgium.”

Under-21 European Championship groups

Group A: Belgium, ITALY, Poland, Spain
Group B: Austria, Denmark, Germany, Serbia
Group C: Croatia, France, England, Romania

Matchday One (16 June)
Poland 3-2 Belgium
ITALY 3-1 Spain

Matchday Two (19 June)
Spain 2-1 Belgium
ITALY 0-1 Poland
Standings: Poland 6 points, ITALY, Spain 3, Belgium 0

Matchday Three (22 June)
21:00 CEST: Spain-Poland
21:00: Belgium-ITALY

N.B. The three group winners and best second-placed team will qualify for the semi-finals

Squad list for the European Championship

Goalkeepers: Emil Audero (Sampdoria), Alex Meret (Napoli), Lorenzo Montipò (Benevento);
Defenders: Claud Adjapong (Sassuolo), Alessandro Bastoni (Parma), Kevin Bonifazi (Spal), Arturo Calabresi (Bologna), Federico Dimarco (Parma), Gianluca Mancini (Atalanta), Giuseppe Pezzella (Genoa), Filippo Romagna (Cagliari);
Midfielders: Nicolò Barella (Cagliari), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Rolando Mandragora (Udinese), Alessandro Murgia (Spal), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Sandro Tonali (Brescia), Nicolò Zaniolo (Roma);
Forwards: Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Patrick Cutrone (Milan), Moise Bioty Kean (Juventus), Riccardo Orsolini (Bologna), Federico Bonazzoli (Padova).
Staff – Delegation Head: Massimo Ambrosini; Team Manager: Vincenzo Marinelli; National Teams Co-ordinator: Maurizio Viscidi; Head Coach: Luigi Di Biagio; Secretary: Mauro Vladovich; Assistant Coaches: Massimo Mutarelli, Carmine Nunziata; Fitness Coach: Vito Azzone; Goalkeeper Coach: Antonio Chimenti; Match analyst: Filippo Lorenzon; Doctors: Angelo De Carli and Luca Gatteschi; Nutritionist: Cristian Petri; Physiotherapists: Enzo Paolini, Alfonso Casano, Emiliano Bozzetti. National teams department: Manfredi Martino.

Schedule for the European Championship

Sunday 16 June 2019
21:00 ITALY – SPAIN at the Stadio Dall’Ara in Bologna

Monday 17 June 2019
16:30 Meeting with the press (player)
17:30 Training at Casteldebole (first 15 minutes open to the press)

Tuesday 18 June 2019
15:30 UEFA press conference at the Stadio Dall’Ara
17:30 Training at Casteldebole (first 15 minutes open to the press)

Wednesday 19 June 2019
21:00 ITALY – POLAND at the Stadio Dall’Ara in Bologna

Thursday 20 June 2019
16:30 Meeting with the press (player)
17:30 Training at Casteldebole (first 15 minutes open to the press)

Friday 21 June 2019
10:45 Training at Casteldebole (first 15 minutes open to the press)
18:00 Transfer to the Stadio Città del Tricolore
19:15 Walk around at the Stadio Città del Tricolore before then heading to the Hotel Boiardo
19:30 UEFA press conference at the Stadio Città del Tricolore

Saturday 22 June 2019
21:00 BELGIUM – ITALY at the Stadio Città del Tricolore in Reggio Emilia

Sunday 23 June 2019
Players depart from the squad should they be eliminated.

27 June

Potential Olympic play-off
28 June in Cesena (21:00)

European Championship final
30 June at Stadio Friuli in Udine (20:45)