Nazionale U20

World Cup. Italy one step away from history.

The Azzurrini will have the chance to qualify for the World Cup final for the first time against Ukraine at the Gdynya Stadium

Monday, June 10, 2019

World Cup. Italy one step away from history.

One step away from history. At 17:30 CEST on Tuesday 11 June, the Under-20 National Team will face Ukraine at the Gdynya Stadium as they look to qualify for the World Cup final – a feat that Italy have never achieved before in this age group. Two years ago in South Korea, the Azzurrini led by Chicco Evani won the bronze medal after beating Uruguay on penalties in their third place playoff match. The hero that day was the very young Alessandro Plizzari, who saved two penalties and thus secured Italy’s best ever result in this tournament.

As for Ukraine, they’re demonstrating the potential they showed last year in Finland in the Under-19 European Championship, when they were defeated at the semi-final stage against Portugal (5-0). The latter then went on to beat Italy in the final in what was a thrilling encounter.

The Portuguese National Team have surprisingly been eliminated from this tournament, while the Ukrainians have remained undefeated up to this point. During the group stage, they beat the USA 2-1 and Qatar 1-0 before drawing 1-1 with Nigeria. They then defeated Panama at the round of 16 stage before overcoming Colombia 1-0 in the quarters. They are a solid and organised side and make it hard to play between the lines, meaning it’s difficult to score against them. They have quick attacking midfielders capable of breaking through suddenly. They normally line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation, with Serhii Buletsa and Oleksii Kashchuck, who play for Dynamo Kiev and Shaktar Donetsk respectively, being their standout players in particular.

Italy’s journey so far has been similar. The Azzurrini are yet to taste defeat: they beat Mexico (2-1) and Ecuador (1-0) before drawing with Japan in their final group game. In the last 16, they overcame hosts Poland 1-0, while their last match saw them emerge victorious against Mali (4-2) to qualify for the semi-finals.

Two similar paths have been taken, and two similar sides are set to face each other. Paolo Nicolato thinks that both teams have a 50% chance of going through: “Ukraine have shown how good they are during this World Cup,” said Italy’s Head Coach. “They’ve played a game which is based on the collective in the same way we have. I think it’ll be a very even match, a tactical one, where certain key moments will make the difference. Therefore, we need to show high levels of concentration.”

Andrea Pinamonti, who is feeling calm ahead of the clash, echoed his words: “We’re feeling very relaxed,” said the captain. “Our concentration levels are where they should be, and tomorrow we’ll give our all to go one step closer to fulfilling our dream – namely to win this World Cup.”

On the other side of the draw, Ecuador have reached the last four: the technically-gifted South American champions, who came through the group stage as one of the best third place sides, beat the USA 2-1 to qualify for the semi-finals. The other semi-finalist is South Korea, who beat Senegal 3-2 on penalties after a gruelling 3-3 draw.

The semi-finals:

Italy vs. Ukraine (17:30 CEST, Gdynya Stadium) 

Ecuador vs. South Korea (20:30 CEST, Lublin Stadium)