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Cor Pot is predicting an "open, interesting match" when his Netherlands side meet Italy in Saturday's UEFA European Under-21 Championship semi-final. The Azzurrini prevailed 3-0 when the teams played each other in a friendly last year, but Pot expects his team to be in far better shape this time around. His Italy counterpart, Devis Mangia, has put out of his mind last year's victory, in his first game in the post, and is demanding nothing more than 100% effort from his team.
Devis Mangia, Italy coach
In the semi-finals it's not important who scores more goals – it's important that the players have given all that they can when they leave the pitch. I think we have prepared correctly for this game – the only thing that can be decisive in the match tomorrow is the team unit. The only important thing is that there are 11 players on one side, 11 on the other side, and they will play on a green pitch with a football in the middle.
I am not thinking about the game that was played last August, the same way that I don't think about all the matches I played in August, in September, October, November. I have completely forgotten about this match and am now thinking only about tomorrow.
I have my own ideas, as every coach has his own ideas and teams have their own ideas as it reflects what the coach wants. It is the same with Dutch football; it's not only champagne football. I have my own ideas and my team are following those.
At the end of every training session we practise penalties but this is usually the task of my assistant and I never watch them. I cannot say now who would be the five takers – this depends on the mood of the team at the moment. It's not a decision to take now. I can say for certain, though, that the goalkeeper will not be in the first five!
• Lorenzo Insigne got Italy's campaign off to the perfect start against England and a place in the last four was confirmed with an emphatic victory over ten-man hosts Israel in their second game. A late Norway penalty seemed to have denied Mangia's side top spot in Group A but Andrea Bertolacci struck deep into added time to ensure the Azzurrini got the point they needed.
Mangia said Insigne's availability would be considered only after Friday evening's training session. The SSC Napoli midfielder sustained an ankle injury against Israel and has not played since. Mattia Destro and Bertolacci started training alongside Insigne, away from the rest of the squad, but are expected to be available. When questioned how he would choose which attacking players he would pick, the coach quipped: "I throw the shirts in the air and the first two that get them will play."
Cor Pot, Netherlands coach
We will see because we know Italy are a very strong country – but we are strong as well. The competition in Italy is a little stronger than in Holland but I am happy we have a lot of players who play at the top of the Dutch league and also in other leagues, in Germany and Portugal.
We have players who have played in the A team. We have to build a philosophy and a young team ahead of [the FIFA World Cup] in Brazil. When you come to the tournament you have a task, and that task is to win.
We didn't come here for a holiday, we came here for results. From the beginning I have always said we come to Israel to become European champions. We scored eight goals in two matches and we were playing attractive, attacking football.
They had almost the same team [in August's friendly] and they made a very good impression on us. They scored three goals so we have been warned about the quality of Italy. But I think we are stronger so it will be an open match, an interesting match.
Group stage results
Netherlands 3-2 Germany (Maher 24, Wijnaldum 38, Fer 90; Rudy 47pen, Holtby 81)
Netherlands 5-1 Russia (Wijnaldum 39, De Jong 61, John 69, Hoesen 83, Fer 90+2; Cheryshev 65)
Spain 3-0 Netherlands (Morata 26, Isco 32, Álvaro Vázquez 90+1)
• A late Leroy Fer header gave the Netherlands victory over Germany in their opening game. Buoyed by that win, the Jong Oranje put five past ten-man Russia to book a semi-final berth with a game to spare. Pot changed his entire side for the final match against Spain, which they lost 3-0 to finish second in Group B.
Bram Nuytinck is out of the tournament because of a knee injury sustained in the 3-0 loss to Spain. Pot, who otherwise has a fully-fit squad, says he will pick "more or less" the same team that started against Germany and Russia.
Italy have a better pedigree than any other team with an unmatched five U21 titles to their name. The Netherlands' two titles at this level came in 2006 and 2007.
Did you know?
Italy's semi-final record in the U21 tournament is P9 W5 L4. They last reached this stage in 2009 in Sweden, succumbing 1-0 to eventual champions Germany. The Netherlands have contested four semi-finals previously. When they got to the last four for the second time, in 1998 – losing to Greece – the other semi was between Spain and Norway, just like this year.
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