Italy cruised to success in UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying Group 7 in Latvia to take a place in the elite round.
"I'm very happy," coach Daniele Zoratto said after a 3-1 final-day win against Croatia in Jurmala confirmed his side's progress to the next phase of the competition. "Our aim for the last game was to hold on to first place. This was my first experience at this level and I'm pleased to have passed this test without dropping a single point."
Croatia will progress as runners-up despite a disappointing start against Italy in which Petar Bašić scored an own goal before Antonini Čulina missed a penalty at the other end. "The match started terribly for us," admitted coach Ivica Grnja. We're happy with our display. We got through and that's what matters."
Italy's success was simple enough, as they followed up a 2-1 defeat of hosts Latvia with a 3-0 win against the Faroe Islands. "The first match against hosts was probably the toughest," said Zoratto. "Beating Latvia paved the way for our overall success as we topped the group from the very start."
Croatia, meanwhile, had to live on their nerves after drawing 2-2 with the Faroes in their first game. While they beat Latvia 2-1 on Matchday 2, Croatia would have been out of the competition had the Nordic side held on to the lead Gilli Sørensen's goal gave them against Latvia on the final day.
As it was, Andrejs Omeļjanovičs levelled from the penalty spot and, following Sørmund Kalsø's dismissal, Jurijs Halimons made it 2-1 to the hosts four minutes from time. "When Latvia equalised against the Faroe Islands we knew they probably wouldn't pip us and relaxed a bit," admitted Croatia coach Grnja.
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