Denmark v Italy background

Denmark have failed to beat Italy in seven previous contests, losing four, although the last three games have ended all square – including a thrilling 3-3 draw in the most recent.

Denmark are aiming for a first win against Italy
Denmark are aiming for a first win against Italy ©Getty Images

Denmark will hope to finally get their first competitive victory against Italy, at the eighth time of asking, when the teams meet in the opening round of Group C games.

Previous meetings
• The countries' eight previous competitive meetings have yielded four Italy wins and three draws – including their most recent encounter at the 2006 tournament in Portugal.

• The matchday one fixture in Aveiro on 24 May 2006 ended 3-3, Denmark letting slip a two-goal lead. Italy struck first through Alessandro Potenza (16) but goals from Rasmus Würtz (21), Thomas Kahlenberg (33) and Leon Andreasen (41) turned the match in Denmark's favour, before Raffaele Palladino (61) and Rolando Bianchi (90) ensured the spoils were shared. Neither side progressed from Group B.

• That was the third successive draw between the teams: Italy had reached the 2004 finals at Denmark's expense on away goals after drawing the away first leg of their play-off tie 1-1 and then achieving a 0-0 stalemate back in Italy. Claudio Gentile's charges went on to lift the title for the fifth and most recent time.

• Italy also prevailed over Denmark en route to landing the 1992 and 2000 U21 titles. They were 3-0 aggregate winners (1-0 away, 2-0 home) in the two-legged semi-finals in the earlier competition, and subsequently picked up away (2-1) and home (3-1) victories in the qualifying group stage for the 2000 finals. Nicola Ventola scored in both of those latter games, with Andrea Pirlo on target in Denmark.

Match background

Denmark
• Denmark drew their first Group 5 qualifier at home to Wales but won all their next nine – keeping clean sheets in their first five matches, and managing seven shut-outs overall. Their three goals against was the joint lowest in qualifying, along with Italy and England's records.

• The Danes were semi-finalists – losing to neighbours Sweden – for only the second time in 2015, having also lost in the last four in 1992. They got to the quarter-finals in both 1978 and 1986, but otherwise have just two finals appearances to their name – being eliminated in the group stage in 2006 and, as hosts, 2011.

Italy
• Italy kept seven clean sheets in qualifying Group 2, shipping just three goals in ten matches – the joint-best defensive record overall alongside Denmark and England's. They shared two draws with second-placed Serbia but won seven of their other eight games, securing their finals place with a 0-0 stalemate in Lithuania on the last day.

• Italy's five U21 titles came during a 12-year spell between 1992 and 2004 – three in a row in 1992, 1994 and 1996, with further triumphs in 2000 and 2004. They were runners-up to Spain in 2013, having also lost the 1986 final, and have reached another four semi-finals.

• However, 2013 was the only time in the past six tournaments they have made it past the group stage, a hurdle that proved insurmountable again in 2015.

• Italy will stage the 2019 European U21 Championship.

Coach and player links
• Kenneth Zohore was at Fiorentina between 2012 and 2015 but never featured for the first team.

• Thomas Hagelskjær, Casper Nielsen, Andrew Hjulsager and substitute Emiliano Hansen were all in the Denmark side for the 4-1 success over Italy in qualifying for the 2012 European U17 Championship; Alberto Grassi and substitute Alberto Cerri figured for Italy.

Coach profiles

Niels Frederiksen, Denmark
Frederiksen did not have a professional playing career, studying economics and working in banking for several years while operating part-time as a youth coach at B93 and Lyngby. He subsequently replaced Henrik Larsen as Lyngby coach in 2009, and in his first full season – 2009/10 – earned promotion to the Danish top flight.

Frederiksen then succeeded Jess Thorup – who had taken charge of the Denmark U21s – to become Esbjerg coach at the start of the 2013/14 campaign. And he again took the baton from the outgoing Thorup when he was appointed to his current post in August 2015.

Luigi Di Biagio, Italy
A Lazio academy product, Di Biagio broke through with Zdeněk Zeman's Foggia in the early 1990s before returning to the Italian capital to play for Roma. After four seasons with the Giallorossi, four with Inter and three with Brescia, the midfielder retired in 2007 following a brief stay at Ascoli. Capped 31 times by Italy, Di Biagio missed the decisive penalty as the Azzurri lost to hosts France in the quarter-finals of the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Two years later he helped Italy to the UEFA EURO 2000 final, where once again they fell to Les Bleus.

Having moved into coaching in 2008 at youth level with smaller clubs in Rome, he was named Italy U20 coach three years later and, in 2013, promoted to the U21s. He led the team to the 2015 European U21 Championship but the Azzurrini failed to survive the group stage despite finishing level with eventual champions Sweden in their section.