The fact that Spain have gone through the UEFA European Under-21 Championship without conceding has not escaped the attention of those following these finals, but Italy's defence is not far behind in the miserly stakes.
The Azzurrini's tilt at the title has been built around a work ethic that runs throughout the squad. A central figure to that effort has been right-back Giulio Donati, who believes that defence can be the best form of attack – especially at a finals. "A good defence can be one of your best weapons if you want to win a championship or a tournament," said the defender, who put in another solid display in the 1-0 semi-final win against the Netherlands. "But the credit always goes to the whole team. Midfielders help out, defenders double up and forwards push high."
There is no doubting the qualities of Devis Mangia's back line, but the phrase 'defending from the front' could not be more apt for this Italy U21 vintage, with the whole team working as a unit for the common cause. Ever-present in Israel, Donati is now hoping his team produce more of the same in the final. "Against Spain, we have to be very organised tactically to tackle not only [playmaker] Isco but also all his team-mates."
The FC Internazionale Milano man spent this season with US Grosseto FC, who were relegated from Serie B, but he has enjoyed taking strides forward with the Azzurrini at these finals. "We have made good progress, but we must maintain that level now," added the 23-year-old. "We have tried to improve and now we have come to the last hurdle and we will try to overcome that."
Spain memorably overcame Cesare Prandelli's Azzurri side in the final of UEFA EURO 2012, but Donati is not interested in drawing parallels with the senior competition last summer. Instead, he is focused only on winning a record sixth U21 title with Italy. "I don't see this game as any kind of rematch. We know we will face very strong opponents. We are just interested in being a bit stronger."
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