Heroic Azzurrini Lose Extra Time Battle Against Portugal U-21

Italy U-21’s adventure in the European Championship is over as the Azzurrini succumbed 3-5 to a quality Portugal selection in their Quarter Finals match. But the Azzurrini did fight for their life, coming back from a two-goal deficit and taking the Portuguese to the extra time, where they had one man sent off and eventually conceded two goals to Rui Jorge’s squad.

One thing is for sure: When the youth selections of Italy and Portugal square off, one can be bet that the show won’t disappoint. The two sides had staged a thrilling seven-goal battle in the U-19 European Championship Final in 2018, with the Portuguese having the upper hand in that occasion as well.

That Italy U-19 was coached by current U-21 manager Paolo Nicolato and featured three players who were also on the pitch tonight – Raoul Bellanova, Davide Frattesi, and Gianluca Scamacca. Unfortunately, the outcome didn’t change on Monday night in Lubiana as the Azzurrini were beaten by a Portuguese side powered by Milanisti Diogo Dalot and Rafael Leao – though the latter was not among the starters.

Indeed, it was another Italy-based player – Monza’s Dany Mota – to give the Azzurrini the hardest of times with a killer brace that gave Portugal a sudden double lead.

The 23-year-old decided to open the game in style after just six minutes with a spectacular overhead kick that left both sides speechless. Dany Mota pounced on the ball as it descended from a corner kick deflection and teleported it into the back of the net to draw a round of applause from the 1,000 spectators at the Stozice Stadium in Lubiana.

On 30 minutes, Portugal and Dany Mota made it two. From another corner kick, Daniel Braganca headed the ball for the Lusitanic number 11, who easily disposed of Raoul Bellanova’s opposition and mercilessly whipped the ball past goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi.

The second goal came in Italy’s best moment, as the Azzurrini had just come up with their first shot – a long-range effort from Tommaso Pobega that ended a few inches too wide.

Italy squandered a good chance on the counter on 40 minutes as Davide Frattesi served Raoul Bellanova, but the Pescara man showed that he is not a striker, poorly slicing the ball. Two minutes later, Gianluca Scamacca’s shot from outside the box was not worth the transfer market hype surrounding him.

And so, it was up to Pobega to reopen the game just before the end of the first half. The Spezia midfielder benefited of some poor Diogo Dalot marking as he pushed the ball into the back of the net from a Frattesi headed deflection from a corner kick. It was an overly important goal as it gave Nicolato’s side a nice morale boost just before the break.

The Azzurrini took advantage of their good momentum but found a monumental Diogo Costa on their way. On 53 minutes, the Portuguese shot-stopped had to use his reflexes to push back a Davide Frattesi header challenge from point-blank range.

Too bad that Italy soon conceded Portugal the third goal collecting an authentic gallery of defensive horrors: Matteo Lovato’s opposition to Diogo Queiros was too weak as the Lusitanic number 4 stood over him to head the ball towards Goncalo Ramos, who sneaked between Luca Ranieri and Enrico Delprato and hit the target past Carnesecchi to make it 3-1.

The bad news didn’t last long, however, as Gianluca Scamacca pulled one back for the Azzurrini from the very next action, finalizing for the best a wonderful exchange with Davide Frattesi and Giacomo Raspadori.

Portugal restarted to attack and seemed to legitimize their lead as Italy were only dangerous with a chance where Scamacca was caught offside. But, with ten minutes to go, the Azzurrini coach enhanced his offensive options by sending in Patrick Cutrone and Riccardo Sottil.

That was the best move Paolo Nicolato could do as the two newcomers cooperated to snatch a last-gasp equalizer for Italy. Sottil run all along the left flank and whipped the ball into the middle of the box. The former Milan and Fiorentina man stretched his foot to anticipate his marker and slotted the ball to the near post and into the back of the net to pull Italy to extra time.

Nicolato soon re-balanced his lineup replacing Gianluca Scamacca with midfielder Matteo Ricci of Spezia but the extra time started in the worst possible way for his side as Matteo Lovato was booked for the second time and saw red.

The Azzurrini did have their chances, especially with an untamed Patrick Cutrone, who drew another save from Diogo Costa and then missed a winning conversion by just a few inches. But the one-man advantage eventually played in Portugal’s favor and the Iberians put their heads ahead again with a brilliant give-and-go between Jota and Romario Barò finalized by the former on 108 minutes.

Some Francisco Conceicao magic sealed it, the Portuguese dribbling past Davide Frattesi on the counter and firing the ball between Carnesecchi’s legs to send Portugal to the Semi-Finals. Italy, however, left the pitch with their heads held well high.



May 31, 2021 – U-21 European Championship Quarter Finals
PORTUGAL U-21-ITALY U-21 5-3 after extra time

SCORERS: 6′ Dany Mota (P), 30′ Dany Mota (P), 44′ Pobega (I), 58′ Goncalo Ramos (P), 60′ Scamacca (I), 88′ Cutrone (I), 108′ Jota (P), 118′ Conceicao (P)

PORTUGAL U-21 (4-3-1-2): Diogo Costa; Diogo Dalot, Diogo Queiros, Diogo Leite, Tomas Tavares; Gedson Fernandes (74′ Jota), Bragança (86′ Barò), Vitinha; Fabio Vieira (86′ Coincecao); Gonçalo Ramos (69′ Florentino), Dany Mota (91′ Rafael Leao) (Joao Virginia, Maximiano, Conte, Djalo, Pereira, Soares, Tomas) Coach: Rui Jorge
ITALY U-21 (3-5-2): Carnesecchi; Lovato, Delprato, Ranieri; Bellanova (75′ Zappa), Frattesi, Rovella (81′ Cutrone), Pobega (75′ Maggiore), Sala (81′ Sottil); Raspadori, Scamacca (91′ Ricci) (Plizzari, Cerofolini, Beruatto, Maleh, Pinamonti, Pirola, Vogliacco) Coach: Nicolato

REFEREE: Letexier (France)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Conceicao (P), Pobega, Sala, Cutrone (I); Red Card: Lovato (I); Added Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 3′, 1st Extra Time 1′, 2nd Extra Time 1′