Italy fly with Sottil and Cutrone: Azzurrini beat Ireland, Euros one step closerBollini's U20 side, with some reinforcements from the U21s, win 2-0 and move ahead of Ireland
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
A courageous Italy side beat the Republic of Ireland by two goals to nil and took three precious points. The Azzurrini are now level on points with the Irish, but top the group on goal difference and have a game in hand over the Boys in Green. This win represents a huge step towards qualification to the U21 Euros. The win was born from an emergency situation, which was overcome thanks to the great synergy within the Italy set-up and constant dialogue between two coaches, Paolo Nicolato and Alberto Bollini. After the game against Iceland was postponed due to numerous positive COVID-19 cases in Nicolato’s Under-21 camp, FIGC announced yesterday that Bollini’s Under-20 side, who had been put on standby days before, would take the field in their place. The game was decided by goals from Sottil and Cutrone, two of the four Azzurrini given permission by UEFA to leave the Under-21’s camp and play in today’s fixture. But the entire group deserves praise for a performance, replete with heart, passion and character.
“It’s really satisfying,” said coach Alberto Bollini, “I have to thank everyone, who’s made sacrifices in recent days. This win was signed by the Italy set-up and a Federation that wanted the team to play with style. It’s an amazing bunch of lads, who fought hard and with character. A lot has happened in recent days, we felt bad for the group at Tirrenia; I was in constant contact with Nicolato and Viscidi, this gave us the push to beat a great Ireland side. The win is dedicated to the lads, who need to recover and make themselves available for club and country.”
Patrick Cutrone, who wore the captain’s armband, left his mark on a deserved victory: “We played really well as a team, and made very few errors. I’m really happy! This week was really tough,” said the Fiorentina striker. “We didn’t train, we weren’t allowed any contact between us, we only saw each other for testing. Today helps, it’s like the guys at Tirrenia were here with us today. I dedicate the goal to the team at Coverciano and the lads and staff, who were with me at Tirrenia.”
THE GAME. A new-look side took the field in Pisa, which mostly included Under-20 players with four from the U21s: Ricci, Tonali, Sottil and Cutrone, all of whom were named in the starting XI by Alberto Bollini. Italy went out to play football, with Tonali dropping deep to launch attacks from the base of midfield. The Azzurrini had a lot of joy down the left, where Frambotta was extremely lively from the off. However, Ireland caused an early scare as Smallbone’s effort from the edge of the box went just wide of the post (8’). The Azzurrini defended with five at the back and looked susceptible to Elbouzedi down the left, though managed to launch quick breaks in support of Cutrone. The Fiorentina striker was close to putting Italy ahead: on the half-hour mark, Cutrone just couldn’t get the telling touch on Sottil’s free-kick. Sottil then benefited from a lapse in concentration from Ireland’s back line and found himself free on the penalty spot, but his shot went high over the bar (36’). Though this was just the prelude to the opener. Just before the break, the Cagliari forward broke the offside trap and cut inside form the left; he beat Masterson and his shot flew into the top corner.
The lead gave Italy, who came out for the second half with Portanova on for Muratore, a real boost after the break. The substitute got straight into the action with a vital intervention on his own goal line. The Azzurrini did not sit back and continue to attack; Ricci, who was released by Frambotta, was unable to pick out Cutrone. Bollini’s side were playing well, kept up the high press and maintained the pression - trying not to let Ireland back into the game. Italy then doubled their lead in the 62nd minute; Sottil was heavily involved again as he set off down the right and picked out Cutrone, who finished from close range: 2-0. Elbouzedi, who looked the most likely for Ireland, had his shot deflected narrowly wide. But it was just a slight scare in a game that sees Italy claim top spot in their group. The Azzurrini now move one step closer to qualification to the U21 Euros after a thrilling week.