The Azzurrini have progressed to the semi-finals of the European Under-21 Championship and in classical Italian style, they did it when the odds were against them and in unlikely circumstances.
Whenever Italy enter major tournaments, football fans often know what they should expect in terms of performances.
Sluggish starts to the campaign, defensive discipline, and the likelihood of an Italian victory over Germany have become common trends for the Azzurri, and if the 2017 European Under-21 Championship is anything to go by, these things also happen when the Azzurrini play.
After suffering a surprising 3-1 defeat to the Czech Republic on Wednesday night, Italy needed to beat Germany and hope that results in other matches went in their favour in order to secure a place in the semi-finals.
Coach Luigi Di Biagio decided to use 10 of the 11 players which started in their opening fixture against Denmark instead of the makeshift team against Czechs, and the Azzurrini pulled off another great escape as they defeated the Germans 1-0 in Krakow on Saturday evening.
With Italy beating Germany head-to-head, it meant that Di Biagio’s side finished on top of Group C and the Germans still progressed because of their superior goal difference in comparison to Slovakia and Portugal who finished second in their respective groups.
Both teams were also given great help from Denmark, who were already eliminated from the tournament but defeated the Czech Republic 4-2.
Italy’s performance was a stereotypical Italian one as they defended in numbers, attacked in spells, scored the solitary goal, and slowed the game down whenever possible. One of the most important changes was Di Biagio’s switch from the 4-3-3 formation to the 4-4-2 because the Italian team defended better as unit and also their possession play had improved.
The change to the 4-4-2 meant that Fiorentina winger Federico Chiesa was finally granted an opportunity to start a match at the tournament.
Although it was not a vintage performance from the 19-year-old, he still provided more speed and directness than Andrea Petagna, the player he replaced in the starting line-up, and it was his first-time pass that assisted in the winner scored by Federico Bernardeschi.
It is easy to say that the Italian side did not face the best German squad available. Coach Stefan Kuntz had to select players who play their club football in 2. Bundesliga and some of his best starlets were selected by Mannschaft coach Joachim Loew for the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
Despite the debate standard of the Germany side Italy faced, the Azzurrini displayed that in true Italian tradition, they perform better when the odds are against them and they more motivated when they face the Germans than playing against other teams.
Italy will face a highly-rated Spain side in the semi-finals on Tuesday evening. The Spaniards have been the most impressive team at the European Under-21 Championship scoring nine goals and conceding just one in the group stage.
A victory for Italy will not come easy but that is the way Italian teams often prefer it to be. When the backs are against the wall, that is when the senior side performs at their best and the Azzurrini are likely to do the same.