Wednesday June 19 2019
Azzurrini still offer hope for Italy

Football Italia Chief Correspondent Richard Hall maintains Italy’s U21 future is bright, regardless of their defeat to Poland.

The Stadio Dall’Ara in Bologna had been raucous and in the end infectious for the Azzurrini, as they came from behind to beat a good Spanish team by 3-1 in the first game of the Under-21 European Championship. As they stepped on to the same field to face Poland, they did it with the knowledge that their former opponents had beaten Belgium hours before. This meant that a win would see Italy go through to the next round, so could they do it with the same style?

The fact that Roberto Mancini has galvanised the national side only holds weight because the U21’s, U20’s and the women’s team are performing so well. This has allowed Italy to rise from the ‘Ventura apocalypse’ with tangible knowledge that their national game is still on a good trajectory. It isn’t perfect, the youth sides are not used properly by the main Serie A clubs, the women’s team is only just getting the recognition it deserves in the media, but for this moment in time, the future looks bright.

Luigi Di Biagio’s team had gone behind to Spain in the opener and had conceded a tremendous amount of possession early on, but the fightback was a testament to team spirit and individual brilliance. Federico Chiesa may have stolen the show, but the whole team played well, the cameos of Patrick Cutrone and Riccardo Orsolini enough to earn them starts against Poland.

The game itself showed once again just how well Di Biagio’s ideas are working. There was a clear idea of how to play, an intensity and a wealth of talent on the bench. The pressing game is modern, but yet has an Italian characteristic. There are partnerships all over the pitch and whilst individuals can display moments of brilliance, this Azzurrini squad is showing that they are the same old, yet brand new Italy.

Italy’s midfield of Nicolò Barella, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Rolando Mandragora are all technically superb and between the three of them, they dictated the play. The build-up was controlled and the pressing was in sync, with none of the three shirking their defensive duties.

The fact that Sandro Tonali and Nicolò Zaniolo started on the bench seemed incredible until you saw how well the three starters all seemed to play similar roles at different times. When Barella defended, Mandragora attacked. When Pellegrini stayed back, the Cagliari and Udinese midfielders moved up.

Chiesa is a world class talent in the making and Orsolini proved why, just earlier that day, Bologna had gone to great lengths to make use of the purchase clause from Juventus. The wide players consistently attacked, although some of the deliveries perhaps left something to be desired, but even when the team went into the break 0-1 down, they could be proud with 60% possession and 13 attempts to four.

They had missed too many chances and failed to find Cutrone enough, but they had dominated. The fact that they could call in a plethora of talent, such as Manuel Locatelli, Federico Bonazzoli, Moise Kean, Sandro Tonali, Zaniolo, Arturo Calabresi or even Emil Audero in goal speaks volumes about the strength in depth.

Poland have been defensively good in both games, with a clear policy of hold and then counter-attack. Italy could didn’t need to do a deep dive on their performance, they just needed to be more efficient in the final third.

Italy walk away from this defeat knowing that they have been beaten by what can only be seen as a professional ‘smash and grab’ by Poland. Italy have won like this in the past many times, so they cannot moan about the manner of the defeat. The positive is that Italy lost a game they should have won, but in doing so, gave the country hope of a new era that shows unity, commitment, patterns of play and style. They were not clinical, but they offer hope nonetheless.

Have your say...
One thing for certain time for Di Biagio run as coach must end.
He’s closer to Ventura than Mancini.
This team is practically entire mix of all PROFESSIONAL PLAYERS under age of 21...of the highest level. They’re not Freddy Adus’. They play for and are sought by biggest clubs in Italy and Europe. More than any of the other teams in tournament.
Yet this guy constantly gets it wrong.
Starting to think the victory vs Spain was a fluke...that Italy gets once every 15 games or so vs top nation.
on the 22nd June, 2019 at 1:00pm
To much pressure on this team. They are average with the odd 'good player', a good playe average are made to look world class. The inconsistency of this team really underlines that.
The pressure these guys are under as Italy hopes they have found the next gen of class is just unreal and it is this way because of the total lack of Italian players in Serie A. Prime example is Juve they given up on Italian players altogether and they look even worse for it as they chase a champions league dream.
on the 21st June, 2019 at 9:07pm
You guys are such whiners. Just not clinical enough was the problem. What tactic would you have used in this case? Poland was going to stack 11 players in their own half. Everyone knew this. Italy just had to be more direct and clinical in their finish. Direct is the weak link for them. They like to cross balls in from the wings. But it become too predictable and dogmatic if this all you do and I still see it constantly with Italy whether its the u20 or u21 or men's team.
on the 20th June, 2019 at 6:43pm
I saw the game live on Sunday.We were outplayed for circa 25 minutes but then we got hold of the game.Against Poland,we should have passed the ball quicker.This is basics against a team that defends like Poland did.It looked to me that our youngsters want to go on holiday and not progress.I do not think we will progress and it will be shameful not to in our own back yard.I do not understand why he played that hopeless defender Adjapong.Absolute rubbish.Should never be called up again.
on the 20th June, 2019 at 1:34pm
LOL the writer is as clueless as Di Biagio is. The pool of talent is unbelievable yes, but to say Italy had a clear idea of their game plan ... I mean unless individually attacking the opposition is counting as Di Biagio's clear game plan then sure. If anything, this match reminded me of Italy vs Sweden. A hugely more talented team undone by their coach and his choices.
on the 20th June, 2019 at 11:19am
The team with the better coach won, period. Italy had no game plan, obviously going wide and swinging in cross after cross wasn't gonna work since we had no numbers or height advantage in the area, yet that's all we tried all night. & y is Mandragora even playing? He was terrible in attack and defense. Everybody knew Poland would defend and counter, Di Biagio played into their hands. I really don't understand why he's still the coach after all these failures.
on the 20th June, 2019 at 5:45am
Juve fan - Balotelli? Oh please.. he's done.. stick a fork in it...
on the 20th June, 2019 at 2:20am
The tactics were hopeless and Poland saw them coming soon as the team lined up.Predictable and missed chances made players that are good ,look average.It is time now for a shake up of in the way they are managed.

Forza Juve.
on the 20th June, 2019 at 12:45am
Carlo Garganese and Adam Digby nailed it - Talented squad led by a clueless manager - what a disappointment.

At least we have R. Mancini & a senior squad that's making progress.

Right now this is our best squad (U21's in bold).

DONNARUMMA, Sirigu, +1

Chellini, Romagnoli, Bonucci, MANCINI

Emerson, Spinazzola, CALABRIA

Veratti, Jorginho, BARELLA, PELLEGRINI, Sensi, ZANIOLO (but he really needs to step up at International level)

CHIESA, Insigne, Bernadeschi, Berardi

Belotti, KEAN, Balotelli
on the 19th June, 2019 at 11:57pm
I don't agree with the comment - we won like Poland did in the past many times - even in our catenaccio days we played good football and had stand out players.

It reminded me of Sweden - again we had a manager lacking ideas, with bad selections in the team - it wasn't that different.

Mandragora is overrated & missed a sitter, only Mancini, Barella, Pellegrini, Chiesa, Kean are worthy of the seniors right now.

Zaniolo and Tonali - disappointing - both need to step up to get into euro 20 squad
on the 19th June, 2019 at 11:39pm
Sam De Martino - I agree Di Biagio - should've been sacked ages ago. The only person that could make this team fail is the manager - the way we beat Spain (as the pre tournament favourites) proved our talent.

After winning our toughest test, losing to a team that had no stand outs and sat back in front of 30k fans is shameful.

Starting to think its a mistake to mix seniors youth players with the u21s - unless you win tournament it dents their confidence.

Kean not starting was crazy!
on the 19th June, 2019 at 11:31pm
Di Biagio should have been sacked years ago. No excuses tonight, a terrible result. We could have played all night and not scored. We are incapable of winning a tournament at any youth level, it's unbelievable. I don't think we have a chance to go through. What a joke.
on the 19th June, 2019 at 11:16pm

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