Three days after Thursday’s defeat to Slovakia, the Under-21 National Team arrived in Cagliari, where they will face Albania Under-21s at the Sardegna Arena tomorrow. It is a match in which coach Luigi Di Biagio is hoping for an important response, with it being the second step on the long journey towards the European Championship set to be hosted by Italy and San Marino next June.
The friendly match with Albania was discussed this afternoon in the assembly room belonging to the Municipality of Cagliari, with Councillor for Sport Yuri Marcialis, the General Director of Cagliari Mario Passetti, the new Delegation Head of the Under-21 National Team Massimo Ambrosini and Luigi Di Biagio all present.
Councillor Marcialis commented on behalf of the hosts: “This is a great opportunity for the city of Cagliari: this is the first time that the Under-21 National Team has played here and we are honoured to host the game. We need it to show young people as a model to follow; football in this case needs to be an enabler of growth also in terms of education.”
Ambrosini thanked the Municipal Administration and the city for their hospitality and passed on greetings from FIGC Commissioner Roberto Fabbricini and others in the administration: “Cagliari has shown how much this area loves the blue shirt through its administrative structure, the club and the environment here. Even if tomorrow’s game is a friendly, it is still an important match for our Federation, and I would like to take this opportunity to make an appeal: come to the stadium, because getting the fans involved is important to us. The FIGC – said the Italian Delegation Head – is carrying out a project that involves the cities hosting National Team games, with a series of initiatives that are to be experienced all together. With this in mind, there will be a meeting between the Azzurrini and Cagliari youth academy players this afternoon at the Sardegna Arena. During this meeting, topics such as fair play and sporting ethics will be discussed.
The National Team will then have their final training session at the Sardegna Arena 24 hours before their match with Albania, who are second from bottom in their European Championship qualifying group and have never beaten the Azzurrini in five attempts. Italy have won four of these games, although the last friendly played between the teams in August 2016 ended in a draw.
“It’s a different game compared with the one against Slovakia – says Di Biagio – a game that will not only allow me to try out some players who didn’t play on Thursday, but will also give me some ideas that may be useful with respect to the future. It is important to play well, because although you don’t always win if you play well, eight times out of ten you will get the win if you do.” The coach, who will have to make do without the injured Favilli tomorrow, has not yet committed himself to a definite starting eleven. “There are still 3 or 4 players who are recovering, we always start with four in defence and then something could change in the middle of the field. I have to take a look at the lads and decide. The hope tomorrow is to entertain people, I think the boys have very high moral values and have learned their lesson. A group tends to grow when it is experiencing difficulties.”