Luigi Di Biagio’s side got off to the perfect start in their opening match of the U21 Euro, with a 3-1 victory over Spain and the focus for the Azzurrini now should be to simply steady the ship, because all of Italy has been singing this side’s praises, and the risk is that the players get a little ahead of themselves.
There are still a lot of good teams to be faced in the competition, and with the current formula – where only the first placed teams and the best runner-up make it to the next round – every match will be absolutely vital.
However, in regard to the match against the Spanish, it has to be said that Gigi Di Biagio’s boys really did perform admirably – after an initial 35 minutes that saw la Rojita completely dominate the encounter.
Dani Ceballos put on an absolute show in that first portion of the match, but his impact started to dwindle in the second half as fatigue got the better of him.
Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Pellegrini, meanwhile, were simply outstanding throughout the entire 90 minutes. They played with a maturity that proved why they’re solidified figures in the full-national team already. Chiesa came away with two goals, while Pellegrini won and converted the penalty to put the nail in the coffin for the Spanish side.
As was predictable, the midfield and front of the team were Italy’s areas of strength. With the exception of Nicolo Zaniolo – who was invisible while he was on and got subbed off before half-time due to a severe collision with the Spanish keeper – everyone in the front six brought a valuable contribution to the cause.
Even substitutes Riccardo Orsolini and Patrick Cutrone had a significant impact on the match, doing exactly what was required of them in their respective roles.
The backline wasn’t quite as solid, with Kevin Bonifazi looking especially shaky. He was substituted in the 88th minute for cramps – which is fairly disconcerting for a centre-back in the opening match of a tournament. Arturo Calabresi was quite poor in the first half, but he started to grow in the second half as the Azzurrini gained confidence.
The importance of having Gianluca Mancini in the centre of the backline was immediately apparent, as he won a ton of his individual battles and helped clean up some of the uncertainties from his colleagues in the backline.
The Azzurrini will now face Poland on Wednesday, June 19. The Polish side caused an upset on Sunday by winning the opening match of the tournament against a quality Belgium team.
Serie A fans will be familiar with Poland’s No.9 Dawid Kownacki, who spent time at Sampdoria before getting loaned out to Fortuna Dusseldorf. Di Biagio should also be wary of Sebastian Szymanski, a technical winger who sealed the win for Poland with their third goal of the day.
It’ll be interesting to see if Di Biagio confirms the same starting eleven against Poland. Giving Alessandro Bastoni the opportunity to take over from Bonifazi might be a wise decision for the Roman coach. Regardless of who is in the line-up, all of Italy will be hoping that the Azzurrini can pick up where they left off in the opener.