Italians complete European quartet

Italy this evening completed Europe's four-strong line-up of Olympic representatives with a penalty shoot-out win over Portugal that sees them joined the Netherlands, Belgium and Serbia in qualifying for Beijing 2008 from the UEFA European U-21 Championship.

Both the Portuguese and the Italians had started the Dutch-held tournament among the favourites, but both crashed out at the group stage and were only granted a reprieve because England, one of the semi-finalists, are ineligible for the Olympics. In the end, it was the Azzurrini, despite being reduced to ten men when Giuseppe Rossi picked up a second yellow card towards the end of normal time, who emerged triumphant after 120 goalless minutes thanks to decisive misses from Manuel Fernandes and Antunes.

The English, meanwhile, who qualified ahead of Italy, ultimately crashed out - also, all too predictably, on penalties - and their Dutch conquerors will now attempt to become the first host nation to win the European U-21 Championship when they go up against surprise packages Serbia in Saturday's final.

The impressive Serbs defeated Belgium 2-0 in Wednesday's other semi-final and go into their showdown with the hosts safe in the knowledge that they have already exceeded everyone's expectations.