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Saturday March 27 2021
Utterly infuriating Under-21s

Everything from the officiating to the negative attitude, a catatonic touchline presence, the dark old days without VAR to the lack of self-respect for Calcio that we saw in Spain-Italy Under-21s infuriated Susy Campanale.

Everything about the Italy Under-21 European Championship draw with Spain was absolutely infuriating. From the officiating to the pathetic attitude shown by the Azzurrini to the ludicrous play-acting of the Spaniards, all the way through to coach Paolo Nicolato declaring himself ‘satisfied’ with that shower some of us were forced to sit through on a Saturday night.

If you want to know why Italian teams are struggling in Europe, look no further than this game. There is a lot of talent in this side, even with some poached by the senior squad and Sandro Tonali getting himself sent off for a stamp – probably the only red card of the four in this tournament that was genuinely deserved. Being content with draws against the Czech Republic and Spain is a sign of how low our ambitions have fallen.

Roberto Mancini might be an attack-minded coach focused on quality, but he’s a lonely voice on the Calcio landscape, even within the FIGC. Nicolato was praised after this dire draw as a “calm presence” on the touchline, but if anything he’s catatonic, lulling players and fans to sleep with tactics aiming to neutralise rather than create. And yet he still has to insist on playing out from the back to ensure at least a couple of panic attacks for the fans each game.

Honestly, I have had it with this over-complication given to under-talented players. Not everyone should’ve tried to replicate tiki-taka, just as playing out from the back is an acquired taste and a specific skill. Short corners can also go in the same dustbin of football fashion, along with people lying down behind the wall for a free kick. Would it kill you to try doing some of the basics well before muddying the waters with this pointless poncing about?

The whole 90 minutes of the European Under-21 Championship tie were infuriating. Spanish players were constantly play-acting, going down clutching their faces when barely touched and arguing with the referee. It paid off for them with Gianluca Scamacca’s second yellow card for waving in the general direction of Oscar Mingueza. This is why I struggle to feel bad for Mingueza when he was sent off moments later for the most delicate skim of the forehead with Nicolò Rovella. Bizarrely, Rovella was also dismissed for the same incident, thus proving the referee was not biased, simply incompetent. Was Rovella given a yellow for his part in the ‘brawl’ or for the simulation, in which case why was Mingueza sent off? None of it made the slightest bit of sense.

Speaking of which, I hope the shocking decisions we’ve seen this week in both the World Cup qualifiers and the European Under-21 Championship can once and for all silence the moaners who want VAR reduced or even scrapped. You want the good old days back? Here, enjoy them in all their phantom goal glory, with tournaments won and lost on a moment of avoidable ineptitude. This is football in the dark ages officiating a match going into 2022.

Worst of all was sitting through the analysis on Italian television, with pundits declaring it a satisfactory draw, a strong performance, a good result in the circumstances. Our expectations have fallen so low in Italy, this is the problem. We can and should expect better. It was the same in the Champions League, even the wonderful Atalanta ended up contentedly going for a draw against Real Madrid, guaranteeing not only that they failed, but did so with a whimper. Calcio has lost all self-respect.

Have your say...
ItalyvSpain matches are always odd/tense at whatever level. This one spicier i suspect because of the previous tournament. Apart from Tonali not really any household names in this squad compared to previous tournament where many have gone on to cement places in full squad Barella, Chiesa, Locatelli etc. It continues to be the case that Italy is producing some good attacking players but the traditional strenghts defenders & number 9's we are on a drought, so Immobile/Acerbi will have to do sadly
on the 1st April, 2021 at 10:16am
@MalaysianBornInterista

Lol,weak troll..

You better worry about your team's financial problem ok.Oh your club new logo is ugly as hell lol.

Milan will rise again,we will win Champions League earlier than your beloved Internazionale.Scudetto?Who cares about winning fodder A league lmao..

From peminat Ac Milan Melayu.
on the 1st April, 2021 at 9:11am
A lot of negative comments about the U21 team.- that was before yesterday's solid performance... y'all got quiet... as for the senoir team, they haven't lost in 2.5 years...

Italy will be fine.. the seniors will go deep in the Euros and the U21 wouldn't surprise me if they make it to a final or even win it..
on the 31st March, 2021 at 7:18am
Susy has been infuriated a lot of late., because her beloved AC Milan is 2nd place atm and her favourite Milan player, the obviously overrated headless chicken Tonali getting the send off.. Not a good day to be a writter for Football-Italia atm..
on the 30th March, 2021 at 12:01pm
On a brighter note Italy have players of quality just something is missing ! They need to go out and show how they can win games with the right mentality then with the right coach I’ve can get back on track
on the 29th March, 2021 at 3:35pm
Kessie to reach the level of performances we are seeing today.

I'm at a loss as to why Pobega and Rovella didnt start the first game - probably trying to be clever and 'resting them'. We've seen this 'over-complication' happen in the senior team in the past.

Upfront, I am afraid to say that we are just not good enough. Scammaca is nothing special. I'm more inclined to lean on Cutrone as a potential star...
on the 29th March, 2021 at 8:05am
Talent wise, this is the weakest U-21 side I've seen in a very long time. A shame Bastoni was not present and we've lost L.Pellegrini to injury, so that's half the defence...

In the middle, Tonali will learn from this (let's not forget that D.Beckham got a red in his first senior international tournament) and whilst his performances have not been 'excellent' for Milan this year, he has still progressed from last year. Next year is key for him - and we should also remember that it took a while
on the 29th March, 2021 at 8:00am
Italy have performed poorly at the U21 level for over a decade now and it is very concerning. Coaching and tactics are a serious issue, as we've got players capable of moving the ball forward, yet we play a slow style that is not in keeping with the times. However, why does Uefa/Fifa even bother having VAR when teams just spend entire matches rolling on the turf and foolishly play acting. It is a real shame that these are the tactics teams restort to. This needs to be eliminated from the game.
on the 29th March, 2021 at 3:05am
Late to the party here) I agree to a certain extent Suzy. But we are missing some
Key players, injuries, players called up to the senior squad and so on. Never rated Nicolato,
Such a defensive minded coach. He cost Italy U20 at the world cup with his defensive, full tactics so negative, slow he’s a dinosaur. Proves how inept the FIGC are. We have to hope Italy U21 win their last game and qualify for the quarter finals In May. If they don’t the coach needs to be sacked
on the 29th March, 2021 at 2:16am
@Gino

Yes, it's all about the result in Italy - but that's one of the problems in Italy.

And let's face it, when was the last time the Italian national teams or club sides were GOOD ENOUGH to get those results? Certainly not in the modern era.

Another way you could look at it would be to say if they weren't so poor in the group's opening 2 games, then the final group game would already be irrelevant. And that's what they need to be aiming for, not hoping to scrap through on the final round
on the 28th March, 2021 at 8:49pm
Totally agree with Susy, great article. I've been saying for a long time now that Serie A needs more foreign coaches who have an attack minded approach to football. Too many Italian coaches have the "dont lose the game" approach instead of "go out and win" approach. Choosing Nicolato as Under 21 coach is a backward step to the old days, and totally at odds with Mancini's approach. Teach kids negative tactics it will be hard for them to shake off.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 6:45pm
Great article fully agree,
I watched Italy U21 for the first time was suprised how poor they where.
I was definitely expecting a lot better worst of all was the shocking amount of fouls /bookings & red cards, not what you want from the youngster's.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 5:17pm
Utterly spot on analysis. More infuriating are the comments from the coach Nicolato that this was somehow a satisfying game. Italy were put to the sword by Spain for most of the game. They were "LUCKY" to survive with a draw. It was a garbage display and I felt like I was watching a repeat of why Spain has been winning the Euro and World competitions for the past 15 years. For those saying this is harsh, I suggest you wake up because Susy is right, this is a return to the dark ages.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 4:59pm
If Italy u21 wins their final group game then no one will care. It's all about the result in Italy, not the way it's played.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 2:10pm
the referee set the tone for the game he should seriously examine his decision making process. still that is no excuse frankly it was shameful both sides mentality was that of 10 years olds. any touch they went down that a sack of potatoes, any player breaks through immediate shirt pull or foul.

it was a game where both sides where more interested in rolling around on the floor than playing decent football and scoring a goal.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 2:05pm
That's a bit harsh. You can only do so much with limited resources. The team had 3-4 above average players out of 15. The U21 team from two years ago had much better players and performed admirably only to leave the tournament in the group stage.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 12:04pm
This sport is just rotten. Show me any other sport where players constantly try to cheat and are even often encouraged to do so.

The older i get the more i find it hard to even watch football because of this. Iam greatful there is a coach like bielsa out there that flat out forbids his players to play-act..
on the 28th March, 2021 at 12:03pm
What I don’t understand is how a federation can have such contrasting styles between literally two teams that should in theory be interchangeable for Mancini. It’s ridiculous and a shocking sign of incompetence within FIGC leadership. Utter incompetence that is dreadfully shameful considering our senior team is so good they just may be good enough to cover up the FIGCs incompetence. Useless.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 11:41am
call from HR to say that he couldn't fail her because she was on the CEO programme. Thats exactly what happens in the mad, bad world of football. If a player comes with a large transfer fee they are given every chance to prove themselves. If a player is free they have to be exceptional.

And here we are.....

Nice though ball by Cutrone in the first game BTW. His assists were always under-estimated.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 10:32am
blessing. Enter a 10m loan signing with 15m buy out clause plus 10m bonus and it doesn't really matter what he does.

I have a friend who works in a bank and he said that he had to supervise someone who was on the "CEO programme" (some programme that basically creates CEOs of the future). Anyway she was a disaster. Completely incompetent, made numerous mistakes, upset co-workers and was unmanageable. At the end of the rotation my friend was asked to rate her, and he gave her a fail. He got a
on the 28th March, 2021 at 10:27am
Wow. Love it.

I agree with this article. Italian managers have a tendency to overcomplicate things and sap all talent from players in the process. This is a talented U21 side the should be doing far better.

Tonali is becoming a real worry. He's struggling at U21s. How's he supposed to be ready for senior football at Milan? Of course there not one but two of his predecessors playing for the senior team. Both Cristante and Locatelli cost Milan ZERO which in modern football is a curse not a
on the 28th March, 2021 at 10:24am
Think you are being harsh on how well they played, yes they could have played better if given the freedom to but Spain for all their possession threatened little.

If it wasn't for the ref giving them freekicks everytime an Italian went near them we might have created more. Although we do need to be braver, we have the talent its just being held back at times.

The part I really dont like is the manager before the game saying how good Spain are and being content with a draw, we should have won!
on the 28th March, 2021 at 8:54am
Wow you have written this so well , we must put a team out who can compete in every position normally the player who is not good enough stands out a mile . On Italian football from club to u 21 national team there is no guts and we are too slow it’s terrible , why is it most Italians do not travel well except back in the 90s vialli zola etc !!! The reason is there only good in the Italian league which even the chezkslovakia are better . Mancini managed a gtreat team in the premier league result
on the 28th March, 2021 at 8:38am
There is talent is this squad but players are not as ready as the Azzurrini team from two years ago under Di Biaggio and they failed too. While I agree that refereeing decisions have been absolutely ridiculous, the coach is making mistakes in choosing his starting line-up as the best 11 are never on the pitch together. What’s the point of dividing your best players into two groups and playing them once each every game along with average players?

Italy used to be a force at this age level.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 8:10am
Finally,an accurate assessment of not only the debacle that is the current Azzurrini setup but also the idiots who still think VAR is 'killing the game'.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 1:03am
I think the message Nicolato was trying to say is that Italy can still qualify.
Italys mentality has always been this way. Get to knock out stages first regardless of how you get there !
on the 28th March, 2021 at 12:57am
I'm embarrassed to call myself an Italian supporter after seeing how these guys represented the country today.
on the 28th March, 2021 at 12:42am

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