Preview: Spain Under-19s vs. Italy Under-19s

Preview: Spain Under-19s vs. Italy Under-19s

Aiming to reach a 10th European Under-19 Championship final in their nation’s history, Spain Under-19s meet four-time finalists Italy Under-19s in Thursday’s semi-finals.

The teams convene at Malta’s Ta’Qali National Stadium, after the Azzurrini scraped through to the final four by finishing second in Group A and La Rojita cruised through unbeaten.

After coming through both the qualifying round and elite round as group winners, Spain have swept into the semi-finals of European Under-19 Championship 2023 by posting seven points from three games in Malta; conceding only one goal in the process.

Sealing the Iberian nation’s 11th appearance in the tournament’s semis, Jose Lana’s boys saw off Iceland in their opening Group B match, before crushing Greece 5-0 and then holding Norway goalless to top the group table.

Previous iterations of La Rojita have gone on to lift the Under-19 Euros title on eight occasions, with the most recent coming in 2019, when a Ferran Torres double secured victory over neighbours Portugal in the final.

This year’s crop – featuring former Barcelona striker Victor Barbera, who recently signed a four-year deal with Club Brugge – are aiming to emulate such success when the 2023 edition comes to a climax on Sunday, but first they must progress past a tenacious Italian side.

While Spain eased into the finals, by comparison, Italy’s route was less straightforward: after finishing third in the qualifying round, in the elite round they then won Group 2 ahead of Germany and Belgium.

Monza midfielder Samuele Vignato was the Azzurrini’s top scorer during the process with three goals, and the 19-year-old was on target again when they dispatched 10-man hosts Malta 4-0 in their opening group game this summer.

In fact, Alberto Bollini’s side scored three of four penalties awarded on that occasion, but such fortune was in short supply three days later, when they were hammered 5-1 by Portugal, a team who now take part in Thursday’s other semi-final, against Norway.

Juventus youngster Luis Hasa then turned in Italy’s equaliser against Poland following good work from Vignato, and that ultimately proved enough to set up a showdown with Spain.

Now making their nation’s eighth semi-final appearance at this level, the Azzurrini’s last Euro Under-19 triumph came some 20 years ago, when Giampaolo Pazzini scored in both knockout rounds and Portugal were once again beaten finalists.

Spain Under-19s European Under-19s Championship form:

Italy Under-19s European Under-19s Championship form:

Italy Under-19s form (all competitions):

We say: Spain Under-19s 2-0 Italy Under-19s
Taking into account Spain’s route through both qualifying and the group stage, La Rojita pose the most attacking threat and boast a more solid defence than their semi-final opponents. While Italy’s squad features some talented stars of the future, they are collectively vulnerable at the back.

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