Italy already had a win in the 2013 European Under-21 Championships coming into Saturday's match with Israel, and that momentum carried over into an impressive 4-0 victory over the opposition again to vault the Azzurri into first place in the Group A standings.
The team's official Twitter account had the post as the score became official after just over 90 minutes of action:
Full time 4-0. Italy are qualified for the semifinal, just have to draw Norway in the last group match to secure 1st place— Azzurri (@ItalianNT) June 8, 2013
Italy dominated possession in the first half en route to a 2-0 lead. It added two more goals in the second half to push the lead to four and clinch a spot in the semifinals of the tournament once the group stage is over.
The Azzurri first got on the board in the 18th minute, when Riccardo Saponara found the back of the net to give his U-21 squad the 1-0 lead and a firm grasp on the three points to be had in the Group A standings.
Football Italia had the post as the Italians took a lead that they would never come close to relinquishing in Tel Aviv on Saturday:
Italy 1-0 Israel! Saponara completes a well-worked team move! #U21— footballitalia (@footballitalia) June 8, 2013
101 Great Goals also had this video of the mark:
GOAL!!!! 1-0: Riccardo Saponara (Italy U21) v Israel U21 http://t.co/FnFX5CHsGu— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) June 8, 2013
Things went downhill for the Israelis from there.
Eyal Golasa picked up a red card for a bad tackle in the 34th minute, and that was pretty much the match for the underdog side after being forced into playing with 10 the rest of the way.
It took Italy just six minutes to put goal No. 2 on the board after that, as Manolo Gabbiadini took a nifty touch pass from Ciro Immobile before beating the keeper to give the Azzuri a 2-0 lead. The Azzurri, on Twitter, had the post as both sides entered their locker rooms at the half:
Half time. Italy cruising against 10 man Israel 2-0. 1 foot in the semifinal. Only bad news is Insigne's injury— Azzurri (@ItalianNT) June 8, 2013
The injury referenced in the tweet was to Lorenzo Insigne, who was the hero from Italy's 1-0 win over England earlier in the week. He had to be removed from the pitch via stretcher, marking the only disappointing aspect for the Italians in an otherwise dominating victory.
Italy came out in the second half with the same fire they had in the first, getting two more goals to push the lead and make a statement to the other teams all vying to move on and win this tournament later this month.
Gabbiadini added another score in the 52nd minute, lining up a free kick just outside the right box and powering home the shot through defenders and past the outstretched arms of Boris Kleyman on the bottom part of the goal.
101 Great Goals had the video of the impressive free-kick strike:
GOAL!!!!! 3-0: Manolo Gabbiadini (2) (Italy U21) v Israel U21 http://t.co/O3daDbcYzt— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) June 8, 2013
Alessandro Florenzi put the icing on the cake for the always-attacking Italians, scoring a nifty goal in the 76th minute after putting the ball through both defenders and the keeper's legs en route to a 4-0 mark. Serie A Live had the post:
101 Great Goals also had his impressive dribble and score during the match:
Alessandro Florenzi (Italy U21) v Israel U21 http://t.co/398wC3z5pU— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) June 8, 2013
There's not much left to be said about the Israeli side, which played with fervor for the first 30 minutes but faltered after struggling through the toils of a 10-man side over the final 60. The bad foul limited Israel's offensive chances, and Italy is too good on the attack to not force the issue in the middle of the field.
The score actually could have been much worse—Italy missed several chances in the open field and Kleyman performed well considering his defenders were outmatched for the majority of the match.
With this contest in the books, the Italians can focus on the semifinals moving forward, while Israel must go back to the drawing board to determine what went wrong after a draw with Norway looked to have this team in position to make some noise in Group A.
|2013 UEFA U-21 Championship Group Standings|
|GROUP A||GROUP B|
*Standings via UEFA.com.
Man of the Match: Manolo Gabbiadini
After being a sub against England earlier in the week, Gabbiadini got the start for his country in this match on Saturday, and he didn't disappoint.
Scoring a brace for Italy, Gabbiadini showed the power in his leg and why a move to England might be in his future soon after scoring half of his team's goals in the victory.
As noted by the Azzurri on Twitter, there's a growing sense that his strong shot will start to really gain recognition among football personnel looking to upgrade their squad soon:
Consigli, Atalanta's goalkeeper, said that only Ibrahimovic has a more powerful shot than Gabbiadini— Azzurri (@ItalianNT) June 8, 2013
The entire squad performed well on Saturday, but Gabbiadini performed well in his starting role on Saturday and will be a tough sit for his manager the rest of the tournament—especially if Insigne is unable to compete against Norway on Tuesday.
The Italy U-21 squad has just one match remaining in group play after Saturday's impressive victory over the Israeli side, and that match will take place against Norway on Tuesday.
Norway is the only other team in Group A to pick up a victory so far, beating England earlier in the day on Saturday to eliminate the Three Lions from European Championship contention. The winner of the match will win Group A, so having a healthy squad and maintaining a high level of focus will be key for the young side in a crucial match.
The Israelis are playing for nothing more than pride the rest of the way, with a match against England on Tuesday being the final chance for both squads to salvage some success against each other at the bottom of the group.
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