Italy, in their record 11th U21 EURO quarter-final, take on a Portugal side who impressed in the group stage by winning all three games.
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Italy, the Group B runners-up, have participated in more UEFA European Under-21 Championship quarter-finals than any other side but look set for a formidable challenge against faultless Group D winners Portugal at the Stadion Stožice in Ljubljana.
• While the Azzurrini managed only one win in their first three games at these finals, Portugal eased through the group stage with maximum points and no goals conceded and are now looking to reach a first semi-final in six years.
• The winners of this tie will face Spain or Croatia in the semi-final on 3 June in Maribor.
• This is the sides' 14th UEFA European Under-21 Championship contest, with the last four all coming in the final tournament – most recently a goalless draw on Matchday 2 of the 2015 finals. Portugal ultimately finished first in Group B on five points, one point and two places above eliminated Italy.
• That was their second successive goalless draw at the U21 EURO, their Olympic play-off in 2007 also finishing scoreless with Italy prevailing 4-3 on penalties.
• The Azurrini had also come out on top in their 2004 semi-final against Portugal in Bochum, Alberto Gilardino scoring twice in a 3-1 victory.
• The most recent of Portugal's three competitive victories against Italy came in their only previous quarter-final, Hugo Porfírio scoring the only goal of the 1996 first leg in Lisbon before strikes from Christian Vieri and Damiano Tommasi turned the tie in Italy's favour in Palermo.
• Italy claimed their second U21 title at Portugal's expense, Pierluigi Orlandini scoring the only goal of the 1994 final in extra time at Montpellier's Stade de la Mosson.
• Portugal won two of the sides' first five competitive meetings, Italy triumphing in the other three, but have managed only one victory in the last eight (D3 L4).
• Jota scored twice in Portugal's 4-3 extra time win against Italy in the 2018 European U19 Championship final, Gianluca Scamacca getting Italy's third goal. João Virgínia and Florentino Luís also started for Portugal, with Diogo Queirós an unused substitute; Alessandro Plizzari, Raoul Bellanova, Davide Frattesi and Andrea Pinamonti all started for Italy, for whom Enrico Del Prato stayed on the bench.
• Scamacca and Frattesi both scored in Italy's 3-2 defeat of Portugal in the group stage of those finals, a game in which Diogo Queirós was sent off in the ninth minute and Bellanova scored an own goal.
• Scamacca scored past Diogo Costa in Portugal's 2-1 win against Italy in a U20 friendly in October 2018; Riccardo Sottil also started for Italy.
• Gonçalo Ramos got Portugal's second goal in a 3-0 defeat of Italy in the 2019 U19 EURO group stage; Tomás Tavares and Vitinha were also in the Portugal side, with Marco Carnesecchi, Samuele Ricci and substitute Giacomo Raspadori in the Italy line-up.
• Lorenzo Pirola played 80 minutes as Italy beat Portugal 1-0 in the 2019 European U17 Championship quarter-finals; Italy's Lorenzo Colombo and Tiago Tomás of Portugal were unused substitutes; Portugal's Tiago Tomás was an unused substitute.
• Rafael Leão scored twice in Portugal's 6-0 friendly win against Italy in 2015.
• Portugal's last finals appearance came in 2017, when they were eliminated after finishing second in Group B behind Spain. They were victorious against Serbia (2-0) and North Macedonia (4-2), but a 3-1 loss against their Iberian neighbours on Matchday 2 proved crucial.
• Rui Jorge's side lost the 2015 final to Sweden on their first appearance in the tournament since 2007. They had also been runners-up in 1994 before a quarter-final finish two years later. Subsequently the Portuguese came third in 2004, yet have otherwise been eliminated in the final tournament group stage – in 2002, 2006 (as hosts), 2007 and 2017.
• In charge since 2010, Rui Jorge guided his side to second place in Group 7 in qualifying for the 2021 finals. Portugal finished level with the Netherlands on 27 points, a 4-2 away defeat by the Dutch in their third fixture leaving them behind their opponents on head-to-head record in the final standings. Portugal won their other nine qualifiers, including the last seven, finishing with a 2-1 home victory against the Netherlands. They had the best record of all nine group runners-up.
• Portugal have now won 12 of their 26 games at U21 EURO final tournaments (D7 L7).
• Portugal finished first in Group D with a maximum nine points, beating Croatia (1-0), England (2-0) and Switzerland (3-0). Their goal difference of +6 was the joint best in the group stage along with Denmark.
• Portugal, Denmark and Spain all came through the group stage without conceding a goal.
• Portugal are in the quarter-finals for the third time. They beat Poland in 1994 (3-1 a, 2-0 h) but lost to Italy at the same stage two years later (1-0 h, 0-2 a).
• 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.
• 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.
• A 4-0 win against co-hosts Slovenia on Matchday 3 sent Italy through as Group B runners-up behind Spain, with whom they drew 0-0 in their second fixture having opened with a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic.
• Despite those victories in 2019, Italy have won only six of their last 14 matches in the final tournament (D3 L5).
• This is Italy's 11th U21 quarter-final, more than any other side.
• Italy's record in quarter-finals is W6 L4. They lost their first three, in the first three editions of the competition in 1978, 1980 and 1982, but won six of the next seven, most recently beating Portugal in 1996 (0-1 a, 2-0 h). They have not lost a last-eight tie since 1988, when they were eliminated by France (1-2 a, 2-2 h).
Links and trivia
• Have played in Italy:
Diogo Dalot (AC Milan loan 2020/21)
Pedro Pereira (Sampdoria 2015–17, Genoa loan 2018/19, Crotone loan 2020/21)
Dany Mota (Virtus Entella 2015–18, Sassuolo loan 2018, Juventus 2019/20, Monza 2020–)
Tiago Djaló (AC Milan 2019)Rafael Leão (AC Milan 2019–)
• Francisco Conceição was a late substitute when Porto defeated Juventus 2-1 in the first leg UEFA Champions League round of 16 on 17 February 2021. Porto's Diogo Costa was an unused substitute.
• Diogo Leite was an extra-time substitute in the return leg as Juve won 3-2 on the night but lost out to Porto on aggregate on away goals.
• Have played together:
Dany Mota & Davide Frattesi (Monza 2020–)
Dany Mota & Pietro Beruatto (Juventus 2019)
Dany Mota & Davide Frattesi, Giacomo Raspadori, Gianluca Scamacca (Sassuolo 2018)
Vitinha & Patrick Cutrone (Wolverhampton Wanderers 2020)
Tiago Djaló & Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan 2018/19)
• Mota scored the only goal past Plizzari as Monza beat Reggina in Serie B on 28 November 2020.