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Under-21 draw revives memories for Italy

After Serbia and Italy were paired in qualifying, we turn back 11 years to when they contested the final and an Azzurrini side with a few well-known faces came out on top.

Under-21 draw revives memories for Italy
Under-21 draw revives memories for Italy ©UEFA.com

Italy 3-0 Serbia and Montenegro
(De Rossi 32, Bovo 83, Gilardino 85)
Ruhrstadion, Bochum, 2004

Italy claimed their fifth UEFA European Under-21 Championship in seven attempts with a 3-0 victory in the final against Serbia and Montenegro in Bochum. But Claudio Gentile's side looked unlikely champions after losing 2-1 to Belarus in their opening Group A match.

"After Belarus beat us I said to myself, 'We will either make it all the way to the end or we'll be out immediately,'" Gentile said. "Not many were betting on us after the loss against Belarus, but this team has a thousand resources and has proved it. We were patient and it paid off."

Two wins in quick succession soon changed the mood in the Italy camp. Gentile's nerves were steadied thanks to a pair of goals from Giuseppe Sculli in a 2-1 triumph against Serbia and Montenegro and two days later Croatia were also overcome, 1-0. That victory ensured Italy's place in the semi-finals and they were joined there by Serbia and Montenegro, who also closed out the group on six points.

Sweden were the pick of the teams in Group B, Johan Elmander impressing as his side swept into the final four with wins against Portugal, Germany and Switzerland. Hosts Germany only needed a draw from their final game against Portugal to follow them through, but a superb late strike from Lourenço booked the Iberians' progress instead. Portugal, however, would not last much longer. Italy had found their rhythm and were easy winners in the semi-final, 3-1 courtesy of a brace from Parma FC forward Alberto Gilardino.

That success set up another meeting with Serbia and Montenegro, who had reached the final in thrilling fashion. Vladimir Petrović's men looked to be on the way out after falling behind to Sweden in their semi-final, but Milos Marić's added-time goal took the match into extra time. Serbia and Montenegro would ultimately go through on penalties – before their luck ran out against Italy in the final.

Seven of Italy's players that day would make the step up to the full national team, and with the likes of Daniele Bonera, Christian Zaccardo, Andrea Barzagli, Daniele De Rossi and Gilardino proving the future of the Azzurri was in safe hands, Gentile's side ran riot in front of 20,092 fans. De Rossi, Cesare Bovo and Gilardino, his fourth of the tournament, got the goals as the Azzurrini made amends for that early scare against Belarus. Patience had paid for Gentile.