Danny Lewis has a look at the players that stood out during the U21 Euros group game that finished Denmark 0-2 Italy
Italy may have come through this 2-0 winners, however this match was in the balance for the majority. The young Italians were always on top but the resolute defending from the Danes made this a difficult task for them. Denmark would always surround anybody who they saw as a threat, with Domenico Berardi put under sustained pressure throughout the entirety of the match. Italy’s midfield three of Lorenzo Pellegrini, Marco Benassi and Roberto Gagliardini were in control of the game as a unit throughout, but it was down the wings that they got their main threat, with both of their goals coming as a result of good wing play.
Part of the reason that Italy deployed the tactic of hitting Denmark down the wings was that Denmark were often crowding out attacking threats such as Andrea Petagna down the centre. Patrick Banggaard, Andreas Maxsø, Lasse Vigen Christensen and Christian Nørgaard would always be on hand to cut out any options down the middle, which meant the best option was to use the wings.
In the end this worked as Italy’s wing play led to goals from Pellegrini and Petagna which sealed the win for Italy and got them off to a flying start in the Under 21 Euros. Here’s how the standout stars impacted the game.
The Sassuolo midfielder was incredibly reliable in the middle of the park, but also continuously showed the class that has led to him being so highly rated by many who have watched him. Pellegrini held his position as the anchor of the midfield three with discipline, but when he stepped forward he ensured that he made an impact on the play. This was evident as he scored the first of Italy’s two goals with a superbly taken overhead kick.
His passing range was there for all to see, with brilliant accuracy over both short and long ranger passes. The Italian also showed plenty of determination to help his side overcome Denmark’s combative style of play, as he could often be seen challenging the Danish central midfielders in 50/50s. This was vital in allowing the skill of the Italians to shine through, which in turn allowed them to eventually win the game with relative comfort.
He and his midfield colleagues Gagliardini and Benassi seem to have a great understanding of how to play with each other, which will be vitally important if Italy are to progress to the latter stages of the tournament.
Lasse Vigen Christensen
As has already been mentioned Denmark were not afraid to get stuck in. It was their captain, Christensen who led by example in this regard. He worked tirelessly through the game and was never beaten to the ball without a fight. Sitting in front of the defensive he acted as a shield for the majority of the game looking to cut out any balls in towards Petagna to help out the centre backs. This helped to keep him out of the game for long periods of time, even if the Italian striker did end up scoring. There were times when Denmark lulled slightly and more often than not it was Christensen who got them going again.
He did show his technical side as well though, as he almost managed to release his side’s more attacking players with some incisive through balls. However, they came just short of making the most of these balls, either failing to hit the target or sending a tame shot into the arms of Gianluigi Donnarumma. The man who has been on loan at Burton Albion from Fulham recently showed the two sides of his game that will be likely to get him into the squad of his parent club in the near future.
The Fiorentina winger was a constant threat regardless of where he was on the pitch. He would often switch between wings but he caused havoc for whoever he was up against. The use of both direct running and quick accurate passing made him almost impossible to deal with and meant that he became a focal point of the Italian attack.
Bernadeschi made sure that Italy played at a quick tempo and a lot of his side’s dangerous attacks would go through him. At times the Italian would drift into positions between the lines to pick up the ball and he would often use the extra time that he would get from this positioning with deadly effects. It was he who made the original cross for the first goal and he also played the cross field pass to Federico Chiesa, who eventually crossed the ball for Petagna to score the second goal of the game. This shows that he was able to impact the match from different areas, as his involvement in the first goal was right next to the opponent’s box, whereas he was near the half way line when he influenced the second.
The Cardiff striker came on in the 72nd minute when the Danes were already 1-0 down. Marcus Ingvartsen, who started the game up top had failed to have any real impact, however with more strength and pace Zohore was able to impose himself upon the game a bit more than the man he replaced.
He didn’t get too many chances, as Italy were already in full flow by the time he came on, but he definitely gave the Italian defence something to think about. Daniele Rugani and Mattia Caldara seemed a bit more stretched when he came on. The Danish striker would often look to run in behind the Italian defence and almost got a goal when he hit the side netting with a half chance. The Dane was always available for his team mates and provided an out-ball, which was vital due to the fact that they were under such maintained pressure. He may not have been able to do enough to get Denmark into this game but Zohore will have given Denmark Under 21 manager Niels Frederiksen a selection dilemma going into the two remaining group matches.
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