Matchday 2 in Group B brings together the two most successful teams in U21 EURO history as Spain take on Italy.
Article top media content
The two most successful teams in UEFA European Under-21 Championship history meet at the Stadion Ljudski vrt in Maribor as Spain take on Italy in the second round of Group B games.
• The sides have five titles apiece and have crossed swords in three finals, Spain prevailing in 1986 and 2013 and Italy coming out on top in 1996. Italy also beat Spain in the group stage two years ago, although it was Spain who went on to finish first in the section and ultimately take the title.
• This will be the sides' 11th European U21 Championship fixture. Each has four wins and scored 15 goals in those previous ten matches.
• On Matchday 1 of the 2019 finals, a Federico Chiesa double (36, 64) helped hosts Italy overturn Dani Ceballos' ninth-minute opener in Bologna. A Lorenzo Pellegrini penalty eight minutes from time sealed the win, but Spain bounced back to progress to the semi-finals as Group A winners, Italy and Poland losing out in a three-way head-to-head after the teams had all finished with six points.
• Dani Martín and Dani Olmo were unused Spain substitutes in that match; Moise Kean started for Italy with Patrick Cutrone and Alessandro Bastoni coming on as second-half replacements and Manuel Locatelli, Sandro Tonali and Claud Adjapong remaining on the bench.
• In the 2017 semi-finals, a Saúl Ñíguez hat-trick gave Spain a 3-1 semi-final win in Kraków against an Italy side whose sole response came from Federico Bernardeschi. Spain went on to lose 1-0 to Germany in the final.
• Spain had run out 4-2 winners against Italy in the 2013 final in Jerusalem, Thiago Alcántara scoring three of their goals and Isco the other from the penalty spot; Ciro Immobile and Fabio Borini were the Italy players on target.
• That was the countries' third U21 final meeting. Spain won their two-legged 1986 contest 3-0 on penalties after a 3-3 aggregate draw, while Italy came out on top ten years later, again on penalties, 4-2 in Barcelona after Francesco Totti and Raúl González had swapped goals.
• Spain were 3-0 friendly winners against Italy on 1 September 2017 having also triumphed 2-1 in Rome that March.
• Brahim Díaz, Abel Ruiz, Fran Garcíá and Pol Lozano were all on target in Spain's 4-2 win against Italy in the 2016 European U17 Championship group stage. Andrea Pinamonti got one of the goals for Italy, whose team also included Alessandro Plizzari, Raoul Bellanova, Luca Pellegrini, Alessandro Bastoni, Matteo Gabbia and Davide Frattesi; Oriol Busquets also featured for Spain.
• Ruiz scored twice more against Italy in a 3-1 Spain win in the 2017 U17 EURO group stage after Sergio Gómez had opened the scoring; Álvaro Fernández, Juan Miranda, Hugo Guillamón and Ferran Torres were among their Spain team-mates.
• A Ruiz penalty earned Spain a 2-1 success against Italy in the 2019 European U19 Championship group stage. Miranda, Guillamón, Eric García, Torres, Bryan Gil and Gómez all started the game in Yerevan; Italy's side included Marco Carnesecchi, Samuele Ricci and Giacomo Raspadori.
• This is Spain's eighth appearance in the U21 final tournament since 1998, and a sixth in the competition's last seven editions. They have only failed to get past the group stage once in those eight participations, in 2009, and have reached the final in each of their last four, lifting the trophy in 2011, 2013 and 2019.
• Current coach Luis de la Fuente – who succeeded Albert Celades in July 2018 – led Spain to a 2-1 final victory against Germany in Udine in 2018. His side had finished first in Group A before beating France 4-1 in the semi-finals.
• Before facing Slovenia on Matchday 1 Spain had lost only three of 36 European U21 Championship games (W29 D4) – against Italy on Matchday 1 at the 2019 finals, in qualification at home to Northern Ireland on 11 September 2018 (1-2) and Germany in the 2017 final (0-1).
• De la Fuente's team won nine of their ten qualifiers in booking their place at the 2021 finals, dropping points only in a 1-1 draw in Israel on 19 November 2019. They won their next five qualifiers, keeping a clean sheet in each, and had not conceded in 459 minutes of competitive football prior to these finals. They finished on 28 points, ten ahead of North Macedonia at the top of Group 6.
• Spain conceded only one goal – a penalty – in qualifying, which gave them the best defensive record; no other team conceded fewer than four.
• Before Matchday 1 Spain had won 18 of 21 matches at the final tournament (D1 L2); the 2019 defeat by Italy was their first in the group stage since a 2-0 reverse to England on 18 June 2009.
• De la Fuente also led Spain to the 2015 UEFA European Under-19 Championship title in Greece.
• Italy have participated in 11 of the 13 final tournaments since 1998, missing out only in 1998 and 2011. They have reached the semi-finals or better in six of those previous ten appearances, claiming the trophy in 2000 and 2004.
• Italy were also champions for three tournaments running between 1992 and 1996, and reached the 1986 final.
• The Azzurrini qualified automatically for the 2019 finals as hosts, but were unable to progress beyond the group stage despite winning two of their three fixtures, beating both Spain and Belgium 3-1 either side of a costly 1-0 loss to Poland. They finished in second place level with eventual champions Spain and Poland on six points.
• Despite those victories in 2019, Italy had won only five of their lasr 11 matches in the final tournament before Matchday 1 (D1 L5).
• In qualifying for the 2021 finals, Paolo Nicolato – who replaced Luigi Di Biagio in July 2019 – guided the Azzurrini to first place in Group 1, his team picking up 25 points from their ten matches (W8 D1 L1) to finish four ahead of Iceland. Italy's sole defeat was a 3-0 reverse in Sweden on 8 September 2020; they won their last four matches, scoring four goals against Luxembourg (4-0) and Sweden (4-1) in the final two.
Links and trivia
• Have played in Italy:
Brahim Díaz (AC Milan loan 2020–)
Gonzalo Villar (Roma 2020–)
• Have played together:
Brahim Díaz & Matteo Gabbia, Lorenzo Colombo, Sandro Tonali (AC Milan 2020–)
• Ander Barrenetxea and Martín Zubimendi were both second-half substitutes in Real Sociedad's 1-0 home defeat against Napoli in the UEFA Europa League group stage on 29 October 2020. Zubimendi played 90 minutes of the 1-1 draw in Naples on 10 December, when Barrenetxea again came on; Roberto López was an unused replacement for the Spanish club in both matches.
• Pedri started both of Barcelona's 2020/21 UEFA Champions League group games against Juventus, a 2-0 win on 28 October and a 3-0 loss on 8 December. Riqui Puig, who was an unused substitute in Turin, came on at the Camp Nou, while Carles Aleñá and Iñaki Peña were unused substitutes in both games and Óscar Mingueza was a late replacement in Barcelona.
• Cutrone scored Milan's goal in a 2-1 home loss to Real Betis in the UEFA Europa League group stage on 25 October 2018.