Belgium overtook Italy to win UEFA European Under-19 Championship Group 7 on a thrilling last day, the Azzurrini edging out Belarus by a single goal to cling onto the section's second qualifying berth.
Italy held a one-point lead at the top of the group heading into the third and final round of matches, having overcome Albania 3-0 – Stefano Padovan scoring twice – before a 1-1 draw against Belarus earned by Matteo Ricci's 88th-minute penalty equaliser. Belgium had opened with a 1-0 win against Belarus but then went down 3-1 to Albania to leave both teams on three points with one game remaining.
Belarus came back into contention with a 2-0 matchday three defeat of hosts Albania thanks to second-half strikes from captain Evgeni Belyavski (61, penalty) and Artem Komarov (76), despite ending with nine men following the dismissals of Sergei Karpovich and Semen Shestilovski in the concluding quarter of the match.
In Fier, meanwhile, a goal in each half from Belgium's Jordy Croux (5) and Nathan Kabasele (69) left Italy's hopes hanging by a thread. One more goal for either Belgium or Belarus would have consigned Alberigo Evani's side to third position yet once more a late Ricci penalty, this time with four minutes left, came to their rescue – although it was not enough to prevent Belgium topping the section.
"This was a difficult group; all the teams have great players," said a relieved Evani after the Belgium game. "We had a good start, but later we began having some problems. My players put in a good performance, but it was difficult to score."
Marc Van Geersom hailed Belgium's effort, the coach adding: "I want to congratulate my players. We knew this was a tough group because on a given day anyone could beat anyone else, and that's how it proved. With that in mind, I'm very pleased we finished top."
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