The UEFA European Under-19 Championship offered a glimpse of the stars of the future.
By Simon Hart
Stars of the future
"It's been a tournament with important players whom we'll hear about in the future," said Berrettini. Among those who impressed most, of course, were some of Berrettini's own players. The statistics underline Italy's excellence: qualifying matches included, they won nine out of ten games en route to the title and they conceded just two goals in five matches in Liechtenstein.
Names to note
Reflecting on his side's achievement following the 2-0 victory over Portugal in Saturday's final, Berrettini singled out the AS Roma playmaker Alberto Aquilani, Atalanta BC striker Giampaolo Pazzini - scorer of the semi-final winner against the Czech Republic and Italy's second goal in the final - and defenders Andrea Mantovani from Torino Calcio and Damiano Ferronetti of Roma.
Praise for Portugal
Aquilani, Mantovani and Ferronetti will spend next season together on loan at Serie B side USC Triestina and their progress there will doubtless be monitored closely. Berrettini did not just single out his own players and had particular praise for beaten finalists Portugal. "There were, of course, players in the Portugal team - Paulo Sérgio, João Pereira, Miguel Angelo who was suspended from the final, and the goalkeeper, Paulo Ribeiro."
Paulo Ribeiro, from Vitória FC in the Portuguese second division, saved two penalties in the semi-final defeat of Austria, while the lightning-quick Sporting Club de Portugal striker Paulo Sérgio finished as the tournament's top scorer with five goals.
The two beaten semi-finalists, Austria and the Czech Republic, had their moments. Austria topped Group B and their success in reaching the last four mirrored their Under-17 side's achievement in May.
Both defender Markus Berger, from Eintracht Frankfurt, and striker Roman Kienast, of SK Rapid Wien, displayed the prowess that has earned them Under-21 caps. SK Sturm Graz midfield player Klaus Salmutter scored twice from midfield in the 6-3 semi-final defeat by Portugal.
Bílek singles out trio
Czech coach Michal Bílek, meanwhile, singled out SK Sigma Olomouc defender Roman Hubník, AC Sparta Praha midfield player Ladislav Volešák and FK Viktoria Zizkov striker Petr Mikolanda as his players of the tournament. Mikolanda scored twice and was sorely missed in the 1-0 semi-final defeat by France, when he was suspended.
Scouts turn out
Scouts from more than 30 clubs across Europe received official accreditation for the tournament and there were other players to catch the eye. Although France finished bottom of Group B, striker Sébastien Grax, who plays for AS Monaco FC, finished the tournament's second highest scorer with three goals.
Another Frenchman impressed Italy coach Berrettini. "Of the other teams in the tournament I would say [playmaker Mourad] Meghni from France," he said. Meghni showed the skills that have earned him Serie A experience with Bologna FC.
'A magnificent job'
England, like France, went home after the group stage but according to coach Stuart Baxter had one of the players of the tournament in John Welsh, their midfield general from Liverpool FC. "If I was voting for man of our section I would pick John Welsh, I don't think there has been a player better than him," said Baxter. "He's a good captain and did a magnificent job."