12 October 2021
Second win recorded: Colombo deals the telling blow to Montenegro. Nicolato: “This group is coming together”President Gravina was watching from the stands: “I’m here to show how much the Federation values the growth of this team in the hopes of Olympic qualification”
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
This newest Under-21 side recorded their second win in as many games as – after Luxembourg – they beat Montenegro in their second match in EURO 2023 qualifying. Lorenzo Colombo fired home the only goal of the game eight minutes into the second half after a first 45 with very little action.
Thanks to this second win and following the two draws between Sweden and Bosnia and between Ireland and Luxembourg, Italy move into second place, just one point behind group leaders Sweden. Meanwhile, Montenegro and Ireland are level on points with four, Bosnia are on two and Luxembourg have just the solitary point.
It was, therefore, a big win for the Azzurrini ahead of a hugely important international window coming up in October, during which Italy take on both Bosnia and Sweden. The importance of this game at the Stadio Romeo Menti in Vicenza was further underlined by the presence of FIGC President Gabriele Gravina, who met with the team before kick-off to give them some encouragement: “It’s the start of a new cycle. Nicolato is forming a team with a lot of potential. I came to Vicenza to show the lads and the staff how much the Federation believes in their growth as a team and in the possibility of reaching the Olympic Games.”
THE GAME – Nicolato stuck with the 4-3-3 used against Luxembourg but with three fresh faces; Lovato returned from suspension to start in defence and Okoli partnered him, while Yeboah started in attack.
The result was always the most important thing; the Azzurri need points to give this newly-formed team a bit of breathing room for the long process still to come. Montenegro are certainly no slouches; they’re a much more physical and technical side than Luxembourg but lost last time out to Sweden. Italy were in near-complete control from the get-go and forced the opposition to drop deeper and deeper. In the ninth minute, Tonali’s corner dropped to Colombo, whose effort was deflected behind for another corner.
In the 27th minute, Rovella’s low driven effort from our 25 metres out went just wide of the post. One minute later, Cancellieri latched onto Colombo’s pass a forced Izevic into a good save.
The clearest cut chance, however, fell to Colombo, whose left-footed effort produced another timely intervention from Ivezic.
Italy found their way through just eight minutes into the second half. Bellanova swung in the cross for Colombo, who took the ball down, beat Obradovic and fired home on the turn.
The guests reacted well and, in the space of a minute, tested Carnesecchi twice, but the Azzurrini keeper punched the first clear and then got down smartly to turn Krstoviz’s effort behind for a corner.
Nicolato sent on two fresh faces in the 67th minute: Lucca and Mulattieri for Yeboah and Colombo. Five minutes later, he was forced into another sub as Udogie was forced off with a knock, Calafiori coming on for him.
In the 82nd minute, Italy had a chance to kill off the game but Rovella’s effort was off target. Ferrarrini and Brescianini replaced Rovella and Cancellieri in added time. It ended 1-0 to Nicolato’s boys.
“These first two games were finely poised,” Nicolato said afterwards. “This was shown by Luxembourg’s draw today. It was important for us to start well and we did that. It’s clear that we haven’t exactly shone but that’s normal at this stage. This group is coming together and we’ve already taken great strides. We just need to stay alert, though, because the journey is a long one.”