Nazionale U21

The Azzurrini finish their Euro qualifying campaign in style. Nicolato: “This is a team with lots of quality”

The Under-21s run out 4-1 winners against Sweden thanks to a Giacomo Raspadori brace and goals from Youssef Maleh and Gianluca Scamacca. Karlsson nets for the Swedes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Azzurrini finish their Euro qualifying campaign in style. Nicolato: “This is a team with lots of quality”

Having secured qualification to the Euros following their win in Luxembourg on Sunday, Italy’s Under-21s made amends for their defeat in Kalmar on 8 September by beating Sweden 4-1 in Pisa. At the Arena Garibaldi, a Giacomo Raspadori brace and goals from Youssef Maleh and Gianluca Scamacca secured a resounding win.

Paolo Nicolato’s men have thus finished 2020 and their Euro qualifying campaign in style and were able to consolidate first place in their group. Following eight wins, one draw and one defeat, the Azzurrini have deservedly made it through to the final tournament group stage, which will take place from 24 to 31 March 2021 in Hungary and Slovenia. Alongside the hosts and first-place teams in qualifying, the five top-ranked group runners-up will also take part in the finals. There’s now just one more bridge to cross before the eight-team knockout phase next June.

THE MATCH – Nicolato made a host of changes compared to the team’s match against Luxembourg, with only Sala and Scamacca retaining their places. Cerofolini lined up in goal, while the defence consisted of Vogliacco, Buongiorno and Cuomo. In midfield, Zappa (debut) Melegoni, Ricci, Maleh and Sala all took to the pitch. With Pinamonti out through suspension, Raspadori and Scamacca were selected as the duo up front.

Knowing that a place in the squad for the Euros was potentially up for grabs, those who played weren’t lacking in motivation. Despite the many new faces, the team performed as a solid unit from the off and with the spirit of a group that has made solid progress. Italy looked balanced and were very attentive, giving very little away against a Sweden side who were defending in numbers and looking to hit the Azzurri on the break. In the 21st minute, Nicolato’s charges came close through Scamacca, who, after being set up by Melegoni, was denied by Dahlberg. It wasn’t long before Italy found the opener, however: with 27 minutes on the clock, Vogliacco switched play to Sala, who in turn found Maleh. The latter then let fly with a wonderful left-footed strike, scoring his first Under-21 goal.

Italy came forward once more after 37 minutes, when Scamacca’s shot was deflected behind for a corner by Henriksson, and in the 40th minute, when Zappa was denied at the last. The first half finished with a decisive double save from Cerofolini, who thwarted Bengtsson and then Nygren.

Marchizza and Del Prato were brought on for Buongiorno and Sala at half-time, and, almost immediately after the restart, the Azzurrini doubled their lead through Giacomo Raspadori, who bagged his first Under-21 goal with a splendid effort. However, Sweden hit back instantly, with Karlsson reducing the arrears following a mix-up in the Italy defence. In the 58th minute, Nicolato sent on Colpani for Maleh. Despite the energy they’d expended in the opening period, the Azzurrini remained composed and continued to create danger in and around Dahlberg’s goal. On the hour mark, the Swedish goalkeeper was unable to do anything about another fantastic Raspadori goal from Scamacca’s wonderful assist.

Nicolato’s side were putting on a real show, playing at a high tempo and penetrating in behind. This is how the goal to make it 4-1 came about, with Scamacca adding his name to the list of scorers. Sottil and Bellanova then entered the fray, but this didn’t have an impact on the quality of a team that showed character and played attractive football throughout.

This was underlined by the Head Coach after the match: “I’d like to compliment everyone, this is a team that has desire and a lot of quality, we’re doing really well at this time. Our journey has been characterised by continuity in terms of how we play, and we’ve combined this with victories. As for the defeat against Sweden, I’m not one for making excuses, but it was a misstep against a side containing players who were in the middle of their season, whereas our league hadn’t yet begun.”

A confident Nicolato then looked ahead to March: “I have every faith in the quality of this group. We hope that we’re in even better shape by the time March comes around. There are so many signs indicating that we’ve done a good job together, with this applying to the coaches, the team and the Federation. It’s everyone’s success. Now, we must continue to be prepared: we’ve got a lot of options and we’ll make our choices based on the players’ performances and how many minutes they play. The doors are open to everybody.”