European Under-21 Championships – Italy bidding for record sixth title

Italy overcame the Netherlands to advance to their first European Under-21 Championships final since winning the tournament in 2004. The Azzurrini head into the game as slight underdogs, where they will face a talented Spain side in Jerusalem as they seek to win a record sixth title.

Fabio Borini was the late match-winner against the Jong Oranje, rewarding his coach, who reinstated the Liverpool attacker into the starting line-up. It will be interesting to see who Devis Mangia selects for the final, and there will be pressure on his choices as Spain are yet to concede at the tournament, becoming the first team to reach the final with no goals against since the group stage format was adopted in 2000.

The Spaniards are also unbeaten in 25 competitive matches at Under-21 level, although Italy have a very strong record in the final of this tournament, winning five of their six appearances. Much will depend on how the talented Marco Verratti performs, and how he deals with the pressing game that Spain deploy to such good effect. Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne will be required to do his fair share of defensive duties to try to contain the marauding Spanish full-backs, but has the ability to cause damage if any spaces are left in the channels.

The likely Italian centre-half pairing of Matteo Bianchetti and Luca Caldirola will have their work cut out whichever option Spain Coach Julen Lopetegui goes for in his attack. They have performed well in the tournament so far alongside the impressive Giulio Donati at right-back, only conceding a single goal in the final group game against Norway, and must continue their form if Mangia’s side is to prevail.

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