Italy scored a dramatic late goal on Saturday at the European Under-21 Championship in Israel, earning a 1-0 win over the Netherlands in the day's second semifinal to secure a berth in the tournament championship, via SuperSport Blitz:
UEFA European Under-21 Championship SF– Result: Italy 1-0 Netherlands #SSFootball— SuperSport Blitz (@SuperSportBlitz) June 15, 2013
Devis Mangia's side did not always look like the better squad on Saturday, but in the end, the Group A winners found a way to beat Dutch goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet just once, and that's all the team needed to advance.
The first half featured several chances from both teams, but both defenses were up to the task, as each side shared possession. At halftime, the Dutch had six shots to Italy's four. Only one of the Azzurrini's shots fell on goal, however, while the Netherlands put three on target in the opening half.
Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman had a near-miss in the early goings when his shot attempt almost turned into an assist, per Football Italia:
Wayward Strootman shot almost turns into an assist! #U21— footballitalia (@footballitalia) June 15, 2013
Italians Fabio Borini and Marco Verratti both picked up early yellow cards within the first 20 minutes, giving them little room for a misstep in the second half. Borini nearly made up for his early yellow card in the first half, coming close to breaking the deadlock on what was arguably the Italians' best chance in the opening period, via Football Italia:
Good chance! Borini hits the side-netting after shrugging off Martins Indi! #U21— footballitalia (@footballitalia) June 15, 2013
Both sides were aggressive defensively during the first half on Saturday.
After another half hour of scoreless action in the second half, Borini finally broke through for the determined Italians, scoring the match's lone goal in the 79th minute, leaving the Dutch little time to recover.
Italy would lock down defensively over the final 15 minutes, securing the result in Petah Tikva.
Fabio Borini was no doubt the Man of the Match on Saturday, delivering a clutch performance for Italy. He finished the game with just four shots, but one massive goal.
Borini's confidence will be key moving forward as Italy gears up for a challenging Spanish team in the final.
Cor Pot and his Dutch youngsters will be headed home disappointed after surrendering a late goal in a match they certainly could have won. Still, after some time to reflect, Jong Oranje will have to be pleased with what they were able to accomplish in Israel, scoring eight goals through their first two matches of the Euro U-21 Championship.
Meanwhile, the Azzurrini will have just a couple of days to prepare for a dominant Spanish team in the tournament final on Tuesday. The two teams have yet to meet in Israel, which should make for an exciting championship showdown in Jerusalem.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.