Portugal 5-3 Italy

Portugal beat Italy 5-3 in the European U21 Championship quarter-finals at Stadion Stožice in Ljubljana. Rui Jorge’s side led 2-0 through Dany Mota and were 3-1 up when Gonçalo Ramos scored in the 58th minute, but Italy fought back and equalised in the 89th minute to take it to extra time.

Jota and Francisco Conceição scored in the second period of extra time after the Azzurrini had been reduced to 10 men, Portugal prolonging their campaign in Slovenia where they will take on Spain in the semi-finals.

Portugal take a 2-0 lead

Rui Jorge had his team line up in a 4-3-1-2 formation. There were no surprises in defence or midfield, Gonçalo Ramos replacing Francisco Trincão and partnering Dany Mota up front.

Vitinha took the lead in the 6th minute. Vitinha's attempt forced a save from Marco Carnesecchi and Portugal scored from the resulting corner. Fábio Vieira’s delivery was deflected towards goal, Dany Mota producing a spectacular overhead bicycle kick that gave Marco Carnesecchi no chance.

Portugal's high press was working well, suffocating Italy and forcing them into long balls out from defence. The Azzurrini soon found their way into the game however, Tommaso Pobega's low drive their best chance.

Portugal regained control with a succession of corners from which they doubled their lead. Viera's deep floater found Daniel Bragança, he headed the ball to Mota who took a touch and smashed a powerful left footed effort past Carnesecchi.

Italy fight back 

Italy fought back strong, Davide Frattesi surging into the box before providing a chance for Raoul Bellanova who fired over the bar.

Gianluca Scamacca shot wide but their persistence paid off on the stroke of half time. An Italian corner was flicked towards the back post by Frattesi where Tomasso Pobega fired into an empty net.

Portugal were too passive to start the second half, their high press a distant memory and Frattesi dropping deeper into midfield to create a numerical advantage.

Italy looked certain to equalise when Marco Sala’s cross found Frattesi at point blank range, but his bullet header was too close to Diogo Costa who pulled off a fine reflex save.

Portugal regain two goal advantage, but not for long

Portugal won a free kick that Fábio Vieira hit into the Italian wall, but he soon had another chance to send the ball into the danger area and it resulted in a goal.

Diogo Queirós was still upfield and he rose highest to headed the ball towards goal where Gonçalo Ramos who produced a smart finish to make it 3-1. 

Less than two minutes later Italy had reduced the deficit once again. It was a simple goal with Frattesi’s cross evading Portugal’s defence and Scamacca left with an easy finish.

The roles had been reversed with Italy’s high press forcing Portugal into long balls, The Esperanças were lacking movement and couldn’t find space despite Vitinha and Vieria seeing plenty of the ball.

Successive substitutes

Florentino Luís replaced Gonçalo Ramos in the 69th minute as Portugal went close to restoring their two goal advantage. Vitinha shot over the bar after a clever 1-2 with Mota at the edge of the 18 yard box.

Jota replaced Gedson Fernandes in the 74th minute with Paolo Nicolato making four changes in the space of six minutes. Raoul Bellanova, Tommaso Pobega, Marco Sala and Nicolo Rovella made way for Gabriele Zappa, Giulio Maggiore, Riccardo Sottil and Patrick Cutrone.

Florentino’s introduction and Italy’s attacking intentions allowed Daniel Bragança to push up higher where he was creating havoc. Portugal were creating chances, the best of which saw Jota’s shot tipped over the bar.

Matteo Lovato was booked for taking down Dany Mota before Jorge made two more changes, Vieira and Bragança making way for Romário Baró and Francisco Conceição.

Just when it looked like Portugal were about to seal the deal, Italy equalised in the 89th minute. Sottil surged down the left wing, his cross turned in at the near post with Costa beaten.

Lovato’s dismissal gives Portugal the advantage

The players had just returned to the pitch for extra time when Italy were reduced to 10 men. Lovato and Mota jumped for the ball, the Italian's arm catching Mota in the head with referee François Letexier awarding Lovato his second yellow card.

Mota made way for Rafael Leão but Italy were not about to lie down. They creating another chance with Cutrone’s shot saved by Costa and cleared off the line by Queiros.

Portugal made the extra man count in the final 15 minutes as Jota played a smart 1-2 with Baro before finding the bottom corner. Cutrone turned Zappa’s cross narrowly wide which was the signal for Italy’s frustrations to boil over.

Francisco Conceição put the icing on the cake with three minutes remaining. He took on Frattesi, turning the fatiguing midfielder inside and out before firing past Carnesecchi from close range.

Mota MOM

Dany Mota impressed in the qualifiers and group stage and it all came together for him in Ljubljana. He played a huge role in the victory and justified Jorge’s decision to start him ahead of Tiago Tomás or Rafael Leão.

Jorge was full of praise for the Monza striker after the match: "Dany has developed with us and brings a lot of value for a trainer. He causes the opposition a lot of attention and helped us in many moments."

"He had a great game in defence and attack. He works a lot, has the capacity to play with his back to the opponent, is strong in the air without being very tall and has the ability to score."

Round up

It was a thrilling game in Ljubljana and the supporters that travelled to Slovenia did their best to support their nations and create some atmosphere.

Italy have a strong squad, especially up front, but Portugal should have been able to hold onto the leads they established. 

Rui Jorge offered some explanations for his team being unable to close it out in 90 minutes: “We should have been more aggressive defensively and create more open spaces in Italy's half of the pitch. Sometimes we were not calm enough, we should have been more mature.”

“To concede three goals, it’s hard to say we defended well.” There is no doubt that Jorge and his analysts will be busy breaking down Italy's goals and doing some extra defensive work on the training pitch.

What’s next?

Portugal travel to Maribor to take on Spain in the quarter-finals. The match will be played at Stadion Ljudski vrt at 5pm BST on Thursday.

Line up & goals

Portugal U21 Line Up (4-3-1-2): Diogo Costa - Diogo Dalot, Diogo Queirós, Diogo Leite, Tomás Tavares – Vitinha, Daniel Bragança (Romário Baró 86’), Gedson Fernandes (Jota 74’), Fábio Vieira (Francisco Conceição 86’) - Gonçalo Ramos (Florentino Luís 69’), Dany Mota (Rafael Leão 94’)

Unused substitutes: João Virginia, Luís Maximiano, Tiago Djaló, Pedro Pereira, Abdu Conté, Filipe Soares, Tiago Tomás

Goals:

[1-0] – Dany Mota 6'

[2-0] – Dany Mota 31’

[2-1] – Tommaso Pobega 45’

[3-1] – Gonçalo Ramos 58’

[3-2] – Gianluca Scamacca 60’

[3-3] – Patrick Cutrone 89’

[4-3] – Jota 109’

[5-3] – Francisco Conceição 119’

By Matthew Marshall

Comments (7)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Vitinha, Vieira, and Mota were the standouts. Vitinha in particular reminds me of a young Bernardo - he just oozes class with each and every touch. His touch, vision, skill, and creativity are all top-notch.

Braganca is class as well, but he...

Vitinha, Vieira, and Mota were the standouts. Vitinha in particular reminds me of a young Bernardo - he just oozes class with each and every touch. His touch, vision, skill, and creativity are all top-notch.

Braganca is class as well, but he can't be expected to shield a defense as a lone #6 as he isn't a proper destroyer. Florentino may not have played that often at Monaco, but he's the only true defensive midfielder Rui Jorge has at his disposal. I'd start him alongside Braganca with Vitinha, Vieira, and Jota operating as fluid attacking midfielders.

Tomas Tavares and Dalot need to step up their game in the quarter finals against Spain. It isn't entirely their fault, as Jorge's preferred 4-4-2 diamond can leave our fullbacks exposed, but both of them were ripped to shreds far too many times against Italy.

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Vitinha is definitely turning into a very good player. he and Vieira running the show in Slovenia.

Starting Florentino and Braganca definitely an option for Rui Jorge. I can see Florentino replacing Gedson, Braganca with licence to roam forward...

Vitinha is definitely turning into a very good player. he and Vieira running the show in Slovenia.

Starting Florentino and Braganca definitely an option for Rui Jorge. I can see Florentino replacing Gedson, Braganca with licence to roam forward with a hard working winger coming into the team.

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This coach needs to leave the politics out of choosing the starting 11. His substitutes in the final part of the game where terrible, Leite conceding a corner before half, wow, who is teaching these young defenders? Why is Leao on the bench?...

This coach needs to leave the politics out of choosing the starting 11. His substitutes in the final part of the game where terrible, Leite conceding a corner before half, wow, who is teaching these young defenders? Why is Leao on the bench? Tavares was average, Dalot wake up, nice finish by Ramos but where was he for the rest of the game? A comfortable victory turns into a bad Portuguese joke because this coach doesn't know what he is doing. Let's hope that our A team coach doesn't follow this same example of incompetence.

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Antonio you're trippin', check your shoelaces before your next step.

Rui Jorge has got almost every decision right in qualification and the group stage.

Players make mistakes and some of them have problems that are kept in house, especially in...

Antonio you're trippin', check your shoelaces before your next step.

Rui Jorge has got almost every decision right in qualification and the group stage.

Players make mistakes and some of them have problems that are kept in house, especially in international tournaments.

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I was writing my take on the game ... then Italy scored in the 88’ minute. May have jumped the gun a bit.

Regardless, this U21 team is oozing talent. We’ve seen this story before though - a team with so much talent but aren’t quite hitting the...

I was writing my take on the game ... then Italy scored in the 88’ minute. May have jumped the gun a bit.

Regardless, this U21 team is oozing talent. We’ve seen this story before though - a team with so much talent but aren’t quite hitting the targets that they should be hitting. Having Trincão and Thierry Correia out are huge losses, but we’ve got enough players to deputize for them. I don’t think Tavares did enough to guarantee a start against Spain, and Dalot is lucky that’s he’s not in competition with anyone because as mentioned before me, he needs to step up. I think Abdu Conte should be given a start, the guy is a great left back, and can even move to cb if Portugal wants to move Dalot forward while in possession.

How long will Dany Mota fly under the radar for? This guy is a lethal finisher. I’ve seen some rumours of him heading to Sporting, I think that’d be a great move for him and the club. The midfield core is superb. Vitinha and Fábio Vieira are such intelligent players.

We got lucky with the Italians dropping down to 10 men as they had the momentum and looked like they might’ve snatched the win from us. The Italian diving and antics are always laughable and you can see that from their youth squads right up to the senior team. I’ve got to give credit for courage and confidence, and you can never count them out, a lot of the times they always find a way to win. The Portuguese squad needs to learn a bit from them!

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Amazing game...nail bitter...shot ourselves in the foot with passive defending and sloppy possession and thats where my questions with the change of tactics from previous round against teams as strong as italy.

I suppose the loss of theirry,...

Amazing game...nail bitter...shot ourselves in the foot with passive defending and sloppy possession and thats where my questions with the change of tactics from previous round against teams as strong as italy.

I suppose the loss of theirry, trincao and pote could be cited but they werent the main cogs of the possession based defending in the previous rounds. I am not sure why they went away from it as it was so effective in nullyfying attacks...cant attack if you dont have the ball...we gave too much to the italians in terms of controlling the ball and our attack was more over the top than building like in the prvious rounds where we were absolutely brilliant.

Mota surely must be a target for sporting or the big 3...he has goals in him, clinical, smells it, great link up play, strong in challenges....would fit Amorim's style well...reminds me of bruno in a way that he is floundering around italy and is just waiting for a chance to shine.

Braganca can play the 6 as he took over from florentino after the croatia game and was a starter for england and switzerland. The difference is, if your asking hime to chase and be that athletic player...he is not...if you want to dominate the ball with vitinha, veira and what was pote but was gedson against itsly he is your guy. Gedson is too sloppy in posession...if i was Jorge....i would move fabio into that 3 man mid...and utilize jota or leao up top with mota.

Abdu was perfect for italy...fast..strong...suprised as he played more first team football than tavares....hopefully he starts against spain as they are really quick. Makes me wonder if you dont use dalot back on left and put tiago djalo at right back..he did a good job against neymar in that position...will add pace and power....

All in all alot of quality! It really is a shame trincao and theirry werent there....made us favourites.

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I really thought the game was over when Italy scored their 3rd goal. But this Portugal team has alot of firepower. I was really impressed with Romario. His ball control and through passes were amazing. Are we looking at the next Portuguese Pirlo?

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