There were plenty of Italian smiles on the plane back from South Korea, as Italy’s Under-20 side returned to the peninsula proud of securing their Bronze medals at the youth World Cup. The Azzurrini obtained their spot on the podium thanks a win over Uruguay on penalties three days ago.
Having already praised Alberico Evani, along with the coach’s players and staff, FIGC President Carlo Tavecchio has now discussed the Azzurrini’s third place finish once again: “This result confirms the value of our youth sector and brings recognition for the Federation’s coaches and directors. They are working every day to help relaunch Italian’s youth and also to implement the generational change that is fundamental to stay at the top of world football.”
“The lads were exceptional and they have written an important page in our history,” said CEO Michele Uva. “Cooperation between the federation and clubs is essential for achieving results like this and I want to thank the latter for having made players available during a period that is not covered by FIFA”s international competitions.”
From Uruguay to Uruguay, the Under-20s’ adventure started with an opening defeat on May 21st, whilst they then redeemed themselves against the South American side last Sunday. Alessandro Plizzari was the star of the show as he saved two penalties to push his side to victory. During the group stage Italy overcame South Africa and drew with Japan, before then surpassing France in the Round of 16. An impressive comeback against Zambia helped the Italians progress to the semi-finals, as they even secured the win whilst playing with 10 men after Pezzella’s dismissal. Dimarco levelled the scoreline with a spot kick in the 87th minute, before Vido then scored the dramatic winner in extra-time. As for Riccardo Orsolini’s tournament heroics, his goal against England in the semi-finals ensured that he picked up the top scorer award, although this was not enough to conquer the opposition, with the victorious Three Lions ultimately progressing to the final. However, not disheartened, Italy were resurgent during their third-place play-off and eventually ended the World Cup on a high.
This third place finish is just reward for the work that was started seven years ago by Arrigo Sacchi and then continued by Maurizio Viscidi, who has since praised all of the coaches who have helped with the youth team: “This success is linked to three factors,” said Viscidi. “Three internal and one external. Apart from Orsolini, all of the other players have played about 30-40 matches for Italian youth teams and this experience has prepared them for international competitions. Evani did well to put this team together and make them play in the best possible fashion. This is in addition to the collection of coaches and the cooperation between different youth levels with Italy, as players gain more knowledge and also a sense of continuity. From a tactical point of view, we have tried to make our style of play more global and more proactive, aligning ourselves with an international style of football. These three things helped contribute to the triumph in South Korea, as well as clubs now becoming aware of how international football can help a players’ development.” Viscidi then highlighted a number of top performances from the tournament: “The match played against France shown tactical diligence, while the one against Zambia demonstrated the teams’ character, especially due to the fact that they were playing with 10 men.”
Giorgio Bottaro was also pleased with the Azzurrini’s exploits in Korea: “This success represents an important point in the technical and organisational path that we had set for the players,” he claimed. “It started last year when we obtained permission from UEFA to host the Under-19 Elite Round in Padova. This adventure will now continue to the Under-21 stage, more or less with the same group of players. Thanks to the European Championships, they will be played in Italy in 2019. Our aim is to reach, if we qualify, the 2020 Olympics in Japan.”