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Italy search for answers before Portugal test

After Italy's losing start against Sweden, UEFA.com's Alessandro Massimo asks in which areas they might improve for Sunday's potentially decisive meeting with Portugal.

Italy's Simone Verdi shows his disappointment
Italy's Simone Verdi shows his disappointment ©AFP/Getty Images

They entered this tournament with high expectations so for Luigi Di Biagio's Italy team, their opening U21 EURO game against Sweden proved something of a letdown. Not everything went wrong, but equally there was much that did not go right. Looking ahead to Sunday's second Group B fixture against Portugal, UEFA.com asks what positives Di Biagio take from that first match and where his team can improve.

Sturaro's debut to forget
Thursday proved a nightmare debut for the Juventus midfielder. He made a mistake that led to Sweden's equalising goal and in the second half, with the teams still level, was sent off for pushing Filip Helander in the face. He will learn from his naivety and made a public apology on Friday. "I apologise to my team-mates, I made a big mistake," he said during a press conference at the team hotel. "I'm surprise at what I did, I don't usually act like that. I played a part in the defeat."

The class of Berardi
One of the few positive notes for Di Biagio was the display of his star man, Domenico Berardi. The striker had an influential game, especially in the first half, as his coach acknowledged afterwards. It was Berardi's lovely pass to Andrea Belotti that led to the foul on the Palermo striker for Italy's penalty – which Berardi duly converted for Italy's first goal here in the Czech Republic. Italy's fate does not rest entirely in his hands but his contribution will be crucial against Portugal.

4-3-3 again?
Di Biagio experimented with this formation in the lead-up to these finals but against Sweden, it did not pay off as intended. Sweden are a strong, aggressive team but Italy lacked intensity in midfield and struggled to carry a threat on the counterattack. Against a talented team like Portugal, Di Biagio could revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation to kickstart his team. After all, now is the time to act as a second defeat could prove fatal.

Strength in reserve
Di Biagio has players in reserve with real quality. Danilo Cataldi, Marco Sportiello, Federico Bernardeschi, Alessio Romagnoli and Marcello Trotta were all on the bench against Sweden and could offer something different on Sunday against Rui Jorge's side. Whatever Di Biagio decides, we can expect some changes from Thursday's loss.