Five-time champions Italy conclude their Group B campaign in Maribor against co-hosts Slovenia.
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Five-time champions Italy conclude their Group B campaign in Maribor against co-hosts and debutants Slovenia.
• Italy have dominated the past fixtures between the sides, and are looking to reach the knockout rounds for the fourth time in the last seven editions of U21 EURO.
• The Azzurrini have drawn both games at these finals, against the Czech Republic (1-1) and, last time out, Spain (0-0), having two players sent off in both games. They are level on points with the Czechs and two behind section leaders Spain. A win will guarantee Italy's qualification for the quarter-finals – as will a draw if the Czech Republic fail to beat Spain, or if both games are drawn but Italy score two more goals than the Czechs. If both games are drawn and Italy score one more goal than the Czech Republic they will be split on disciplinary ranking then coefficient.
• Slovenia, meanwhile, were beaten 3-0 by Spain in their opening game before drawing 1-1 against the Czech Republic, a late Nik Prelec own goal denying them victory after Aljoša Matko had scored the country's first U21 finals goal. To reach the last eight they need to beat Italy and hope that the Czech Republic do not win against Spain.
• Italy defeated Slovenia 2-1 in a Lignano Sabbiadoro friendly on 3 September 2020, substitute Matko scoring for the visitors 12 minutes from time before three Slovenia players were sent off.
• This is the seventh European U21 Championship fixture between the teams. Italy have won five of the previous six, since an 88th-minute Filippo Izaghi goal rescued a 1-1 qualifying draw in Nova Gorica on 8 September 1994 – the sides' first meeting. That was also Slovenia's first competitive U21 match.
• Amir Karić's 38th-minute opener in that game is the only competitive goal Italy have conceded against Slovenia. Since that match they have scored nine without reply, including a 1-0 victory in Vicenza in the reverse fixture of that 1994 qualifying campaign.
• Italy were 3-0 winners in Slovenia – Rolando Bianchi scoring twice and Giorgio Chiellini once – and 1-0 victors in Vicenza again en route to booking their place at the 2006 finals.
• The scorelines were the same in the teams' most recent competitive meetings, in the 2017 qualifying competition. Federico Bernardeschi's penalty separated the sides in Reggio Emilia on 8 September 2015; a month later, Gaetano Monachello scored twice and Marco Benassi once to give the Azzurrini the points, all the goals in Koper coming in the final 19 minutes.
• 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 level with eventual champions Spain and Poland on six points, with Spain progressing to the semi-finals by virtue of their superior record in matches between the three teams.
• Despite those victories in 2019, Italy have won only five of their last 13 matches in the final tournament (D3 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.
• This is the co-hosts' first appearance at the U21 EURO finals. Slovenia and fellow hosts Hungary are the only sides to be making their debuts at the 2021 tournament.
• Slovenia's most successful U21 campaign came in 2006, when they reached the qualifying play-offs only to lose 2-0 on aggregate to eventual champions the Netherlands (0-0 h, 0-2 a).
• In the qualifying campaign for the 2019 finals, a team coached by Primož Gliha – who was replaced by current boss Milenko Ačimovič in November 2020 – finished second in their qualifying section, 12 points behind France, having picked up 16 points from their ten games (W4 D4 L2).
• A 2-1 home win against Kazakhstan on 11 September 2018 is Slovenia's only victory in eight European U21 Championship fixtures (D4 L3).
Links and trivia
• Have played in Italy:
Martin Turk (Parma 2020–)
Nik Prelec (Sampdoria 2018–)
Žan Celar (Roma 2018–, Cittadella 2019 loan, Cremonese 2020– loan)
• Adam Gnezda Čerin was twice on the losing side for Rijeka against Napoli in this season's UEFA Europa League group stage (1-2 h, 0-2 a).