U21 EURO qualification: Italy concede late equaliser to SwedenNicolato: “The boys had a great game. We were better than we were against Bosnia. We deserved to win but have a long way to go”
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
There’s still a long way to go in qualifying for U21 Euro 2023 but there will be a bitter taste in the mouth following this result. Italy had a fantastic game and took the league just before half time thanks to a Lorenzo Lucca volley. The Azzurrini created plenty of chances but slipped up late on as they conceded an injury-time equaliser and missed a chance to go top of the group.
Sweden were always going to be a different prospect than Bosnia – Nicolato said so himself ahead of the fixture. The standings haven’t changed it’s a real shame not to have won because the Azzurrini would have deserved all three points given the football that they played, the passion on show and the heart in the performance from start to finish.
THE GAME – Nicolato made just two changes to the side that faced Bosnia. Turati kept his place in goal, while Udogie replaced Calafiori at left-back, with Lovato and Okoli in the centre and Bellanova on the right. Meanwhile, in midfield, Rovella returned to the team alongside Tonali and Salvatore Esposito, while Nicolato named an unchanged front three of Colombo, Lucca and Vignato.
Italy started really well and, in the sixth minute, came close to taking an early lead through Vignato, whose effort was denied only by the knee of goalkeeper Brolin. Six minutes later, Colombo danced his way past a couple of defenders, took aim and – from 20 metres out – fired his effort straight at Tolinsson. In the 13th minute, Tonali let fly and it took Brolin two attempts to gather the football.
The Azzurrini began to really control proceedings, but it wasn’t enough. Nicolato’s side just weren’t clinical enough in front of goal to get the result. Colombo let fly from 30 metres out (27’); his low, driven effort was saved by Brolin.
In the 28th minute, Sweden produced an almost identical chance through Sarr, whose low shot caused no problems for Turati. On the half-hour mark, Lucca spurned a huge opportunity to hand the Azzurrini the lead; fed by Bellanova, the Pisa striker hit the ball on the volley but only managed to win a corner. Colombo and Lucca again combined well in the 32nd but the ensuing effort went wide.
A guilt-edged opportunity went begging for Italy as Lucca couldn’t get enough contact on Colombo’s good delivery. Italy were dominating but wasteful. But they did get a bit of fortune in the 42nd minute; Rovella’s short turned into the perfect assist and all Lorenzo Lucca had to do was tap it home to give the Azzurrini a one-goal lead.
Italy came flying out of the traps after the break; five minutes into the second half, Colombo’s effort on the turn struck the crossbar. Sweden, who are a side blessed plenty of technically-gifted players and are well structured, looked to sit back and hit Italy on the counter. They, once or twice, caused the Azzurrini problems with their pace and Italy, who had spent a lot of energy in the first half, were beginning to look a little fatigued. In the 53rd minute, Hajal volley over the bar before, four minutes later, Elanga sent his effort wide.
It was time to put the game to rest and the Azzurrini were well aware of this fact. Italy twice came close to making it 2-0; Sweden were fortunate not to concede as Rovella’s effort hit Brolin’s outstretched leg (69’) and, moments later, Tonali swung in the corner and Colombo headed a whisker wide. The Azzurrini twice hit the post through Rovella and Piccoli (the latter having come on alongside Cancellieri for Lucca and Colombo). The unexpected result materialised at the death. Deep into added time, Sweden equalised, surprising everyone and leaving a bitter taste in the mouth.
Nicolato, however, had no complaints about his boys’ performance: “It’s a shame because we didn’t deserve to draw that game. The team had a great and game and I liked what I saw. They did better than they did against Bosnia; we played some good football and produced a lot but, as usual, we spurned too many chances. It’s a shame because this could’ve been our fourth win but there’s still a long way to go.”