Last night saw Italy get their Under-21 European Championship campaign off to a flyer with a 2-0 win over Denmark.
The Azzurrini struck twice in the second half through Lorenzo Pellegrini and Andrea Petagna, to join Germany on top of Group C.
Here’s what we learned from the first match of the tournament.
Italy need more cutting edge
The Azzurrini dominated possession in Krakow, but consistently struggled to break down the Danes.
The first half saw Luigi Di Biagio’s men have the ball for 65 per cent of the time, but barely forced Jeppe Højbjerg into a save.
It took a stunning overhead kick to break the deadlock, before Petagna steered one home late on.
Their mastery of the ball was encouraging, but Italy have to be more incisive if they’re to lift the trophy for a sixth time.
Chiesa is staking his claim
Federico Chiesa replaced Domenico Berardi after 67 minutes, and staked a serious claim to start against the Czech Republic.
The Fiorentina forward caused the Danish defence all sorts of problems, culminating in his fine cross for Petagna’s goal.
Following the 19-year-old’s breakthrough season for the Viola, Berardi and Federico Bernardeschi will be looking over their shoulders as Chiesa guns for their Azzurrini starting shirts.
Donnarumma still has to improve with his feet
Gianluigi Donnarumma bore the brunt of the fury of Milan fans in the stadium, with fake dollar bills thrown at him from behind the goal.
He’d have expected that, but the match highlighted one of the few weaknesses in the 18-year-old’s game.
One of Denmark’s few chances came when Donnarumma’s pass put Marco Benassi under pressure, and if he’s to leave San Siro for one of Europe’s biggest clubs, he’ll be under more pressure than from the previously friendly Rossonero crowd.
The final game could be crucial
Germany despatched the Czech Republic 2-0, and Italy matched their result the next day.
The Czechs have dangerous players, including Sampdoria’s Patrik Schick, but one would expect the Azzurrini to have enough to beat them.
Similarly, the Danes are unlikely to cause too many problems for Germany, so the final group game could be crucial in deciding who finishes top.
Caldara and Rugani could be the future for club and country
Mattia Caldara and Daniele Rugani largely strolled through the game, with only minor lapses in judgement from those in front and behind threatening the clean sheet.
Along with Milan’s Alessio Romangoli, the pair offer assurances that the Azzurri defence will be in safe hands after Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini.
With both owned by Juventus, it appears there are readymade replacements for ‘the BBC’ at club level too.
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