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Impressive Italy end home hopes to make final

Slovakia 0-2 Italy
Mario Pugliese and Elio Capradossi struck to send Daniele Zoratto's side to a first UEFA European Under-17 Championship final, ending home hopes.

Impressive Italy end home hopes to make final
Impressive Italy end home hopes to make final ©UEFA.com

Italy put in their best performance of the tournament so far in Zilina to reach their first UEFA European Under-17 Championship final by ending the dreams of hosts Slovakia.

With the Slovaks' unlikely run to the last four capturing the home nation's imagination, the near 7,000 in attendance had real belief that the fairy tale would continue. However, an early Mario Pugliese strike swiftly brought into stark focus the tough task facing Ladislav Pecko's side, who toiled admirably for an unrealised equaliser, before Elio Capradossi sealed the Azzurrini's final spot with a 64th-minute effort.

With first-choice defenders Andrej Kadlec and Denis Vavro suspended, there was a risk the hosts' new-look back four would settle slowly, and Italy exposed them immediately. Just three minutes in, Federico Dimarco's ball released Luca Vido on the left, and the forward showed maturity belying his 16 years to pick out a charging Pugliese who finished from close in.

Having shown impressive form to make it to the last four, Slovakia were not allowed into their stride, and were lucky to go in at the break just one behind. Vido was twice rebuffed by Martin Junas in the home goal when clean through, while Erik Otrísal scrambled back superbly to prevent Alberto Cerri's poke trickling over the line.

Hard-working as ever, Pecko's team struggled to make clear openings, though Simone Scuffet needed to be alert to rush out and deny Nikolas Špalek in Slovakia's only chance of the first 40 minutes.

With final prospects receding, Pecko threw on forward Lukáš Čmelík in place of Otrísal at the interval, and the change nearly paid immediate dividends. The substitute laid back for Lukáš Haraslín to curl a fraction wide, before Tomáš Vestenický's shot also drifted off target after displaying a magnetic touch.

Martin Slaninka, who scored twice in the group stage after coming off the bench, was introduced on 53 minutes, and his arrival coincided with a period of home pressure which concluded as Vestenický headed centimetres over. However, failure to clear a corner in their own box enabled the ball to fall to Capradossi, who stroked home his second of the tournament, to guarantee Daniele Zoratto's side a place in Friday's showpiece.

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