Italy qualifies for the semi-finals of the U-21 Euro 2013.
By Marco Fumagalli
A second match for Italy and second victory in what seems to be the weakest group of the two in this Competition.
A theory confirmed by the fact that England was too bad to be true against the “Azzurri” and the proof came earlier tonight as the Three Lions lost against Norway and are already out of the tournament meanwhile Italy is through the first stage of the event, with the possibility of resting a few key players in the match for seeding against Norway where a tie would qualify the Scandinavians as well.
Italy began the match knowing that a victory would put them through this round but they had to be careful about the home team who could use a boost from the crowd.
4-4-2 again for coach Mangia with Gabbiadini this time with Immobile up front, Verratti and Florenzi holding the midfield, Insigne wide on the left side and Saponara starting on the right midfielder position but cutting towards the center constantly as an extra playmaker; the difference this time is that the full backs, especially right back Donati, were able to push up further more on their sides looking for crosses.
Same tactic for Israel but different duties; the plan was for the defensive line and the midfielders to wait for the opponents very low and try to sting with fast counter attacks with two forwards able to open wide towards the sides, where Italy’s full back were leaving them space. A decent team Israel: fast players having good individual technique with and without the ball but lacking ability to finish the play.
Much faster pace compared to Italy’s first match against England where the opponents not only were defending with ten players but were also sluggish in the counter attacks. The match seemed less boring as the previous one right from the first minutes of play.
The guests kept possession of the ball looking for the right breach while Israel kept waiting in front of their box and was able to scare Italy twice, both times on fast counters.
Funny how Italy’s first goal on minute 18 came after a well built counter attack that came after a serious threat from the opponents who were close to open to score: fast break through and beautiful assist from Immobile for Saponara (new signing of AC Milan) who cut inside the box and finished a fine-looking team effort that started on the opposite side with Insigne.
The red card for the Israel player Golasa on minute 37 seemed a little too strict. The player came sliding with both feet forward, however tried to avoid the contact with Saponara right at center field. The severe decision took by the referee left the home team with 10 men and forced them to switch to a 4-4-1 which left them even more sterile up front.
Another assist from Immobile, this time after a personal play, gave Gabbiadini the ball for Italy’s second goal on minute 42. 2-0 at half time.
The second half started with the same script, the third goal came off a direct free kick that Gabbiadini placed low on the goalkeeper’s right side on minute 53. Florenzi added a fourth goal on minute 71 when the guests had already given up and Italy was moving the ball around as in a practice scrimmage.
There was even room for Mattia Destro to get some minutes on the pitch after a negative year with AS Roma.
The man of the match for Italy could be Immobile for his two assists or Gabbiadini with his two goals, however the truth is that Verratti had an outstanding game tonight. The young star of PSG was simply amazing, he was everywhere, recuperating balls and initiating the offensive plays: irreplaceable and ready for Brazil 2014.
The only bad note is the injury of the best player seen so far, Lorenzo insigne, which forced him out of the game in the first half with what seemed a sprained ankle: the Tournament may be over for him unfortunately.
The speed of play and the determination are slowing coming back to the levels that belonged to this National Team for years before getting lost in the last decade; these are the characteristics that made this team great and legendary through the history of the U21 European Championships.
Expectations and the enthusiasm of the fans are growing back in Italy but coach Mangia seems ready for the pressure: there is no better training to deal with stress than having President Zamparini as former employer on your resume.