Italy entered yesterday’s match on a high after its come from behind victory over Spain on Sunday. And early on it looked like the Azzurrini were going to pick off right where they left off. The Azzurrini came out firing on all cylinders and the start of the match was all Italy. Yet as the time continued to tick by without a goal for the home side, the match started to have the feel of one where one side dominates yet gets hit against the run of play. Unfortunately for Italy, that’s exactly what happened.
Italy was in nearly complete control of the match but didn’t generate too many shots on net in nearly forty minutes despite plenty of good looks. There were a couple saves from the Polish keeper on Federico Chiesa; including one from point blank.
Then it happened. Poland were awarded a free kick which was promptly blasted into the Azzurrini wall, but before you could blink it fell to an unmarked Krystian Bielik. Bielik made no mistake with his opportunity, volleying the loose ball just past the dive of Alex Meret. And just like that the Poles were in front completely against the run of play.
Just minutes later, it looked as if Italy had leveled the match on a lovely strike from Riccardo Orsolini. However, it wasn’t to be, as the goal was reviewed and called back for offside. It was close but Orsolini was a step ahead of the last defender. The match went to halftime with Poland ahead, 1-0.
The Poles never looked back from there as they set up a defensive wall and played like Azzurri teams of old. Get the lead, park the bus, and hold on for dear life. And hold on they did. Italy had a few more chances from distance. A lovely volley a rocket from Chiesa was saved by the Poland keeper. Meanwhile, Lorenzo Pellegrini smashed one off the upright. Nevertheless, no matter what the Azzurrini threw at Poland they just couldn’t break down the stout Poland defense.
CT Luigi Di Biagio voiced his frustration after the match to RAI.
“There is disappointment at how the game went. We controlled it for 90 minutes, but were unable to score despite the many chances we created. That is football, unfortunately,” Di Biagio told Rai Sport.
“I could not have asked more from the lads other than being more incisive when the moment came to score. We created so much, it was a little more chaotic in the second half and we got irritable, trying to get everything straight away. We were too hasty.”
Di Biagio’s frustration is well-founded, as this is one of those matches based off stats alone, the Azzurrini should’ve won handily. The Azzurini controlled 64% of possession and had 31 shot attempts, although only five were on target. Yet, football doesn’t work that way and it just wasn’t Italy’s day in front of goal.
31 - Italy have attempted 31 shots against Poland, a record in UEFA Under 21 Championship 2019: last time Italy Under 21 fired more shots in the competition was back in 2007 vs England (34). Siege.— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) June 19, 2019
Italy now no longer controls its own destiny to advance out of Group A. With the win, Poland moved top of the group on six points. Italy and Spain are joint second on three. Belgium sits last with no points. The final match day for Group A is Saturday when Italy host already eliminated Belgium and Spain face Poland.
If Italy wins and Spain defeats Poland then all three sides would finish level on six points. Therefore, it would come down to head-to-head goal differential in matches involving those three teams. If Poland were to avoid defeat against Spain to win the group outright, Italy could still advance with a win over Belgium, but it would be complicated. With only one second place team advancing, the Azzurrini would only advance if they have the most points among second place finishers or win a goal differential tiebreaker with any other second place team that’s level on points.
As Di Biagio said post match, “Now it gets more complicated. We’ll go and crunch some numbers, but it’s complicated.”