Trailing France and staring UEFA European Under-17 Championship elimination in the face, the tide was turned for Italy by a peach of a header from FC Internazionale Milano striker Simone Dell'Agnello. It set the Azzurrini on the way to the semi-finals and now he aims to follow in the footsteps of sometime room-mate Davide Santon.
Dell'Agnello only played for five minutes in Italy's opening Group A draw with Spain and sat out the 3-1 loss to Switzerland, but was brought in to start Tuesday's must-win encounter with France. "I was very determined to show my worth to the coach who had faith in me," he told uefa.com. "I had to give my heart and soul on the pitch."
With Italy 1-0 down in Taucha two minutes before the break, Dell'Agnello headed in Lorenzo Crisetig's free-kick and from there his team went on to win and earn a last-four tie against Germany on Friday. "It was the most important goal of my career," Dell'Agnello said. "I think it was the first time I burst into tears after a goal. It was a special feeling especially in a crucial game like that against France."
The Livorno native is certainly delighted to have prolonged his stay in Germany. "It is a great chance to make a name for yourself and get more consideration," Dell'Agnello said. "Reaching the semi-finals is a great experience. The standard of the tournament is much higher than that which I've experienced so far with the Inter youth team."
That is some comparison, in 2007/08 Dell'Agnello helped Inter's youth side win the prestigious Campionato Allievi Nazionali, in partnership with defender Santon. The full-back, who missed out on last season's U17 finals with Italy, has gone on to make his first-team breakthrough in 2009, winning praise from José Mourinho and Marcello Lippi. "He is an example for me, because we shared the same room in Milan last year," Dell'Agnello said. "We played together and today he plays along with [Zlatan] Ibrahimović. It gives me hope. I am not saying I am half as good as he is but if he managed it, I think that if I work hard on and off the pitch I have a chance of reaching that level."
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