For the first time in their history, the FIGC will have four National Teams competing in respective European Championship finals. After the success of the Mens’ Under-19s and Under-17s, as well as the Under-17 Women’s Team, Enrico Sbardella’s side have now made it four in terms of teams qualified. Having secured emphatic wins during their two opening games, the Under-19s then bagged a crucial point in a 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic, duly progressing on goal difference.
“It’s a great achievement for these youth teams,” said the FIGC’s Extraordinary Commissioner Roberto Fabbricini. “It’s proof of Italian football’s vitality in both the men’s and women’s game. We must say a huge thank you to the dedicated people who’ve worked with these youth teams, helping make these achievements possible.”
“This important result confirms the quality of work that is being put in by the staff throughout the National youth set-up,” said the FIGC’s Vice-Commissioner Alessandro Costacurta. “It also demonstrates the general growth of Italian’s youth football. To be competing with the best teams in Europe gives us an injection of enthusiasm in building for the future. Over the next weeks, we’ll be cheering on the National Youth Teams, while also looking to bring the senior side back to where they belong.”
“For these five teams to qualify for the European Championship finals is a great achievement,” said FIGC CEO Michele Uva, who also included the Under-21s who’re set to host the 2019 European Championship. “The Under-19 Women’s Team were the last Italy outfit to succeed in what has been a great adventure. The great work put in by Club Italia has been certified. There are 200 people involved, including coaches, doctors, physiotherapists, scouts, match analysts, as well FIGC staff who love the work of the team. We must say a big thank you to all involved, as we celebrate together in laying the foundations for the most ambitious goal of Italian football: youth.”
As for the match against the Czech Republic, the Azzurrine started off determined but conceded the first goal in the 31st minute, with Dubcova opening the scoring. Sbardella responded during the interval, who in July will now be competing in his third European Championship finals, ordering an immediate reaction from his side. They duly responded, with Cantore heading Italy level just two minutes after kick-off. With the scores tied at 1-1, Italy were increasingly comfortable in possession and soon took the lead through Caruso.
The Czech Republic never gave up, however, soon scoring to make it 2-2 and go level on points with Italy. However, the latter successfully secured their spot at July’s finals in Switzerland thanks to a superior goal difference.
Understandably there were scenes of jubilation in the Azzurrine dressing room after the game: “We started in a bit of a hurry,” said Sbardella. “Perhaps because the girls knew how important the game was. The Czechs troubled us a few times during the opening stages through their physicality. We looked to get back on track in the second half and this was too good a chance to let slip.”
With this qualification, Sbardella has also reached his own small personal record: “During the three years I’ve been in charge of the Under-19s we’ve reached the finals twice,” said the coach. “This will now be my third tournament after my previous experience with the Under-17s. It’s important for the entire movement and for the FIGC, who’ll have four teams competing. I want to thank all the girls for what they’ve done. It’s something we enjoyed last year but we can also enjoy this success with full satisfaction. Only eight teams can qualify at this stage and it’s not easy. However, I must say that I’m working with a great group of players and I’m convinced we can still achieve further success.”
Results and standings from Group 7
Matchday one (2nd April)
Czech Republic 2-1 Scotland
ITALIA 7-1 Russia
Matchday two (5th April)
Czech Republic 7-0 Russia
ITALY 4-1 Scotland
Matchday three (8th April)
Scotland 0-0 Russia
ITALY 2-2 Czech Republic
Standings: ITALY and Czech Republic 7 points, Scotland and Russia 1.