Italy have enjoyed the upper hand in their meetings with the Czech Republic over the years, with the teams regular opponents in the final tournaments of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
• This will be the teams' fourth encounter since 2000 – all in the final tournament. Most recently, Italy ran out 3-1 winners on matchday three of the 2007 group stage thanks to goals from Alberto Aquilani (4), Giorgio Chiellini (29) and Giuseppe Rossi (45+1); Michal Papadopulos (14) got the sole Czech response. Neither side progressed to the semi-finals, Italy finishing third in Group B and the Czechs fourth.
• The Czechs triumphed in dramatic circumstances when the teams contested a 2002 semi-final. They looked set for the final when David Rozehnal's first-minute opener was followed by Michal Pospíšil's strike seven minutes from time but, remarkably, an Andrea Pirlo penalty (86) heralded Massimo Maccarone's equaliser four minutes into added time to force an extra 30 minutes. The Czechs, however, regrouped swiftly and Pospíšil scored the golden-goal winner in the 99th minute as they went on to lift the trophy.
• Two years earlier, in 2000, Pirlo's two goals had given Italy the trophy at the Czechs' expense. The midfielder converted a 42nd-minute penalty and, after Tomáš Došek had levelled (51), he struck again with nine minutes left to clinch a 2-1 victory in Bratislava.
• Italy beat Czechoslovakia in the two-legged quarter-finals of 1992 and 1994 – winning three of those four matches – proceeding to take the title on both occasions. Each side registered a 2-1 home win in qualifying for the 1984 finals, but once more it was Italy who held sway overall, topping the qualifying section before losing to England in the semi-finals.
• The Czech Republic finished five points clear in qualifying Group 1 despite losing their penultimate game, away to second-placed Belgium. Their 7-0 success in Malta was the joint-biggest win in 2017 qualifying – along with Austria's defeat of Azerbaijan by the same scoreline – and they also boasted the top scorer in qualifying, Patrik Schick managing ten goals in nine appearances.
• No team in the finals conceded more goals in qualifying than the Czech Republic's ten.
• Winners in 2002 with a squad including Petr Čech, Milan Baroš, Zdeněk Grygera, David Rozehnal, Jan Polák and Tomáš Hübschman – who all earned more than 50 senior caps – the Czech Republic are in the final tournament for a sixth time. Quarter-finalists in 1996, runners-up in 2000 and champions two summers later, they suffered group-stage elimination in both 2007 and, as hosts, 2015, either side of a fourth-place finish in 2011.
• Czechoslovakia got to the U21 quarter-finals on six occasions, but never went any further in the competition.
• Italy kept seven clean sheets in qualifying, conceding just three goals in their ten Group 2 matches – the joint-best defensive record overall, together with Denmark and England's. They shared two draws with second-placed Serbia but won seven of their other eight games, rubber-stamping their tournament ticket with a goalless draw in Lithuania on the last day.
• Italy's five U21 titles came during a 12-year spell between 1992 and 2004 – three in a row in 1992, 1994 and 1996, with further triumphs in 2000 and 2004. They were runners-up to Spain in 2013, having also lost the 1986 final, and have reached another four semi-finals.
• However, 2013 was the only time in the past six tournaments they have made it past the group stage, a hurdle that proved insurmountable again in 2015.
• Italy will host the 2019 European U21 Championship.
Coach and player links
• Michael Lüftner scored once for the Czech Republic in a 2-1 comeback win against Italy in the 2011 European U17 Championship elite round. Lukáš Zima was also in the Czech team; Alessio Cragno, Andrea Conti, Daniele Rugani and subsitute Nicola Murru played for Italy.
• Václav Černý notched the Czechs' decisive goal in a 2-1 success over Italy in the 2014 European U17 Championship elite round.
• Daniel Holzer got the only goal when the Czech Republic overcame Italy in the 2014 European U19 Championship elite round; the Italy team included Alberto Grassi, Alberto Cerri, Davide Calabria and Lorenzo Pellegrini.
• Czech players playing in Italy:
Patrik Schick (Sampdoria 2016–)
Jakub Jankto (Udinese 2014–, Ascoli (loan) 2015/16)
Stefan Simič (Genoa 2012–14, AC Milan 2014–, Varese (loan) 2014/15)
Lukáš Zima (Genoa 2011–, Reggiana (loan) 2013/14, Venezia (loan) 2014/15, Mantova (loan) 2014/15, Perugia (loan) 2015/16)
• Have played together at club level:
Jakub Jankto & Simone Scuffet (2014–)
Jakub Jankto & Andrea Petagna (Ascoli 2015/16)
Stefan Simič & Andrea Petagna, Davide Calabria (AC Milan)
• In January, Slavia Praha announced Antonín Barák will join Udinese in July 2017.
• Patrizio Stronati was born in Italy to an Italian father and a Czech mother, moving to the Czech Republic aged three. He was in the Austria Wien side that drew 3-3 at Roma in this season's UEFA Europa League group stage.
Vítězslav Lavička, Czech Republic
Having started his playing days around his home town of Plzen – later turning out for Viktoria Plzeň – Lavička peaked with Sparta Praha where he won seven league titles over three spells. His later coaching career was inspired by Václav Ježek, with Lavička's first big success being to guide Slovan Liberec to the 2006 league championship.
A year later he became Czech Republic U21 coach for the first time, though he was back at Sparta within six months. An Australian sojourn with Sydney FC followed between 2009 and 2012, including a league title in 2010, before he rejoined Sparta in 2012, winning the league, cup and Czech Super Cup two years later. Having retaken the U21 reins in 2015, he steered them to the UEFA European Championship to be proclaimed Czech Coach of the Year in 2016.
Luigi Di Biagio, Italy
A Lazio academy product, Di Biagio made his name with Zdeněk Zeman's Foggia in the early 1990s before returning to the Italian capital to play for Roma. After four seasons with the Giallorossi, four with Inter and three with Brescia, the midfielder retired in 2007 following a brief stint with Ascoli. Capped 31 times by Italy, Di Biagio missed the decisive penalty as the Azzurri lost to hosts France in the 1998 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals. Two years later he helped Italy reach the UEFA EURO 2000 final, where they again lost to Les Bleus.
A move into coaching came in 2008 at youth level with smaller clubs in Rome. In 2011 he was appointed Italy U20 coach, then in 2013 he was promoted to the U21 helm. He led his charges to the 2015 European U21 Championship but the Azzurrini failed to make the knockout stage despite finishing level with eventual champions Sweden.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.