Italy's opening day defeat by Belarus could not have seemed further away as Alberto Gilardino inspired a third straight victory that took the Azzurrini into Tuesday's UEFA European Under-21 Championship final against Serbia and Montenegro and booked them a spot in this summer's Olympic Games.
Gilardino, returning from suspension, scored the first goal and swiftly made the second for Gianpiero Pinzi. Although Pedro Oliveira pulled one back, Gilardino added another strike near the end. Portugal meet Sweden on Tuesday for third place and the remaining Olympic berth alongside the two U21 finalists and hosts Greece.
Donadel steps in
Having beaten Croatia 1-0 to win Group A, Italy were able to welcome back Gilardino but lost Simone Del Nero - sent off in the victory - to a ban. Marco Donadel stepped into midfield.
Midfield players Raúl Meireles and Carlos Martins and striker Lourenço all picked up suspensions when Portugal eliminated hosts Germany on Wednesday. Bruno Aguiar started in midfield, captain Ricardo Costa, returning from a ban, also began the game while Oliveira was up front for the injured Hugo Almeida.
It was a level opening between two teams who had won reputations for excitement in the group stage. However, around the quarter-hour mark Italy began to have the better of the play, and within ten further minutes were 2-0 up.
Captain Daniele Bonera made the first goal as he won the ball on the right and whipped in a cross for Gilardino to head in on the penalty spot. Portuguese goalkeeper Moreira then had to claw away a deflected Donadel free-kick, but he was soon beaten again.
Gilardino's cross was flicked on by Giuseppe Sculli and Pinzi leapt to head the ball in off the post. Moments later Gilardino volleyed over when through on goal and Portugal were able to recover and swiftly halve the deficit. Danny found Oliveira, but although his shot was blocked, Danny won back the ball on the left and laid it off to Jorge Riberia, whose strong shot was turned in by Oliveira.
There was still time for Italy to have two shots blocked in the area, and the pace of the game did not drop after the interval. Pinzi sent in a deep cross which Sculli could not reach, but that was the second goalscorer's final action as he was booked for a foul - meaning a suspension on Tuesday - and was immediately substituted.
Carlitos then sent a clever lob over Ameila that was heading on to the goal, but the goalkeeper scurried back to claw the ball away. This was the cue for Italy to withdraw into defence, as they had done successfully against Croatia.
As Portugal poured forward they left space at the back for Gilardino, took full advantage 13 minutes from time with an accurate finish. There was no way back for Portugal against an Italian side looking to repeat their triumph of 2000.