FIFA U-20 World Cup record
While Italy have missed out on FIFA World Cup™ qualification just once in the last 60 years, they have made only six appearances at the U-20 world finals. Their performances on those six occasions have been largely impressive, however, with the Azzurrini making the last eight in each of their last four campaigns. At Netherlands 2005, they went out on penalties to Morocco in a match that ended 2-2 after extra time, after Graziano Pelle had scored a late equaliser for the Italians. Italy fell in extra time again four years later in Egypt, beaten 3-2 by Hungary. Italy’s best showing in the U-20 World Cup to date came in Korea Republic two years ago. Defeated by eventual champions England in the semi-finals, they gained a measure of consolation by edging out Uruguay 4-1 on penalties in the third-place play off.
The road to Poland
Italy will travel to Poland as 2018 UEFA Under-19 Championship runners-up, going down 4-3 in extra-time against Portugal in the final. Paolo Nicolato’s side had earlier beaten the Portuguese 3-2 in the group phase, where a 1-0 win over Finland and a draw with Norway secured their place in the last four and with it a ticket to Poland. Inspired by Alessandro Plizzari, who was later named the best goalkeeper of the tournament, the Italians defeated France 2-0 in the semis before falling at the final hurdle.
The experienced Nicolato, who was born in 1966, began his coaching career with Chievo in 1990. Aside from a short stint as an assistant coach with the club’s first team in the 2012/13 season, he trained youth sides throughout his stay with the Verona outfit. He then tried his luck as a head coach with AC Lumezzane in the Italian third division before moving back into youth football with the Italian FA. Nicolato took on the U-18 job in 2016 and stepped up to the U-19 side the following season. Now in charge of the U-20s, he will head to Poland with a group of players he has come to know well.
2000 - Born on 28 February 2000, Italy’s star striker Moise Kean was the first player born in the 21st century to appear in a UEFA Champions League match (a feat he achieved with Juventus in November 2016) and to score a goal in one of Europe’s five major leagues (in May 2017).