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England open with familiar faces Italy

Published: Monday 3 June 2013, 12.30CET
England and Italy have a lengthy rivalry; their Group A meeting in Tel Aviv will be their fifth in the last nine editions and 12th in total at the UEFA European Under-21 Championships
England open with familiar faces Italy
Action from the 2007 finals meeting between England and Italy ©Getty Images

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Published: Monday 3 June 2013, 12.30CET

England open with familiar faces Italy

England and Italy have a lengthy rivalry; their Group A meeting in Tel Aviv will be their fifth in the last nine editions and 12th in total at the UEFA European Under-21 Championships

England and Italy will meet for the fifth time in the last nine editions of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in the opening round of Group A fixtures at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv.

How they qualified
• England finished first in Group 8 with a record of P8 W7 D0 L1 F24 A3. They then overcame Serbia 1-0 in each leg of the play-offs.

• Italy, meanwhile, were first in Group 7 with a record of P8 W6 D1 L1 F27 A8. They defeated Sweden 1-0 at home in the play-off first leg before running out 3-2 winners in the away return.

Previous meetings
• Their paths last crossed in a friendly in Empoli on 8 February 2011. Manchester United FC forward Federico Macheda scored the only goal from the penalty spot with two minutes remaining after Ben Mee had been sent off for a foul on Niccolo Giannetti.

• The teams at the Stadio Carlo Castellani were:
Italy: Pinsoglio, Santon (Biraghi 66), Crescenzi, Romizi, Camporese, Caldirola, D'Alessandro (Saponara 45), Soriano (Rizzo 61), Macheda (Mori 90+2), Fabbrini (Donati 46), Misuraca (Giannetti 61).
England: Fielding, Naughton, J Bennett, Mee, Rodwell (Cork 12), Muamba, McEachran (Trippier 83), Albrighton (Sinclair 74), Lansbury (Oxlade-Chamberlain 60), Vaughan (Rodriguez 60), Delfouneso (Howson 60).

• This will be the teams' 12th competitive U21 meeting, with each having four victories to their name and the remaining three fixtures ending in draws. That includes their most recent competitive contest, a 2-2 draw in Arnhem on matchday two of the 2007 finals when the Azzurrini rallied from 2-0 down. David Nugent (24) and Leroy Lita (26) had scored for an England team coached then, as now, by Stuart Pearce but goals from Giorgio Chiellini (35) and Alberto Aquilani (69) rescued a point for Pierluigi Casiraghi's Italy.

• The countries also met in the group stages of the 2002 and 2000 final tournaments, Italy coming out on top in both contests. Massimo Maccarone scored twice in a 2-1 victory in the latter fixture in Basel, Gareth Barry scoring England's reply. Two years earlier, Gianni Comandini and an Andrea Pirlo penalty gave Marco Tardelli's Italy a 2-0 victory in Bratislava en route to lifting the trophy.

• England had come out on top in qualifying for the 1998 competition, winning 1-0 home and away as they finished first in Group 2, Italy finishing third. England also missed out on the finals in Romania, however, losing to Greece in a play-off.

• The first two ties between the sides had both gone England's way, a 2-1 home win in the 1978 quarter-final first leg at Maine Road, Manchester, proving enough after a goalless draw in the Rome return. England lost to Yugoslavia in the last four.

• In the 1984 semi-finals, England again recorded a first-leg victory at Maine Road, this time 3-1, and progressed despite a 1-0 reverse in Florence. This time Dave Sexton's team went on to defeat Spain in the final and retained the trophy they had won two years earlier.

• Italy reversed that trend in the 1986 semi-finals, coming through 3-1 on aggregate. A 2-0 first-leg loss in Pisa proved too much for England, whose title defence was ended after a 1-1 draw in the second leg in Swindon.

• On 24 March 2007 England and Italy played out a 3-3 friendly draw in the first official match at the rebuilt Wembley. Italy's Giampaolo Pazzini scored the first goal at the new ground after 29 seconds and went on to complete a hat-trick, but strikes from David Bentley, Wayne Routledge and Matt Derbyshire ensured the match finished all square.

Match background
• Champions in 1982 and 1984, England are in a fourth successive U21 final tournament and were runners-up to Germany in 2009. Semi-finalists on a further five occasions, in 2011 they failed to progress beyond the group stage.

• England have only opened one of their five finals campaigns with a defeat since the tournament was expanded to eight teams in 1998. That came against Italy in the 2000 competition; otherwise England have recorded two matchday one wins and two draws, including a 1-1 result against eventual champions Spain two years ago.

• Italy did not qualify in 2011, the first time they had missed out since 1998. The Azzurrini were champions in 1992, 1994, 1996 – the only team to win three successive U21 titles – 2000 and 2004 and reached the semi-finals on their last appearance four years ago.

• Italy have a poor record on matchday one, that 2000 triumph against England their only opening victory in five attempts. Their record shows two defeats and two draws, their most recent finals appearance in 2009 beginning with a goalless draw against Serbia.

Team ties
• Fabio Borini (Liverpool FC) plays in England. Borini's club-mates include Andre Wisdom and Jonjo Shelvey.

• Danny Rose and Alberto Paloschi were on opposite sides as England and Italy played out a goalless group stage draw at the 2008 UEFA European Under-19 Championship in the Czech Republic.

• Josh McEachran played in England's 1-1 U17 draw against Italy on 26 August 2009, with Jack Butland an unused substitute.

• Tom Ince's father, former England international Paul, was at FC Internazionale Milano between 1995 and 1997.

England news
• England arrived in Israel on Sunday having enjoyed a pre-tournament camp in Belek, Turkey.

• Midfielder Ince said those few days acted as good preparation for the conditions in Israel, adding that "we've as good a chance as anyone of winning".

• Manager Pearce has a fully fit squad to choose from with only Wilfried Zaha not taking part in full training on Monday morning at the squad's base in Caesarea.

• Having helped Crystal Palace FC into the Premier League via last week's play-off final, the winger – who is joining Manchester United FC this summer – completed his own training session but is not a major doubt for Wednesday's opener against Italy.

• The players watched the England senior team draw 2-2 against Brazil in their hotel on Sunday night, though goalkeeper Butland said a few of the team went to bed early and missed the late goals.

Italy news
• Italy won 5-0 against AS Varese's youth side on Friday at Milanello. Alessandro Florenzi, Mattia Destro, Paloschi, Fausto Rossi and Lorenzo Insigne scored the goals and Devis Mangia's squad travelled to Tel Aviv the following day.

• On Sunday, midfielder Luca Marrone (thigh) started to train with the Azzurrini, and while attacking midfielder Insigne picked up a little knock to the knee, he said on Monday that "the problem is getting better, I will see today and tomorrow, then I will decide on my availability with the coach".

• Empoli FC duo Riccardo Saponara and Vasco Regini joined the squad on Monday, after their club's Serie B play-off defeat by AS Livorno Calcio.

Last updated: 03/06/13 19.43CET