Nicolato blames ‘match fitness’ for Azzurrini flop

Italy U21 coach Paolo Nicolato insists a lack of ‘match fitness’ was behind their disappointing 1-1 Czech Republic result, but Sandro Tonali and Riccardo Marchizza are suspended against Spain.

The Azzurrini dominated the first half of this opening European Under-21 Championship fixture and took the lead through Gianluca Scamacca, wasted chances, then the intensity fell as time wore on, culminating in an unlucky Giulio Maggiore own goal.

“Some of the lads haven’t played enough this season and don’t have the right match fitness, but we could’ve done better in the second half,” coach Nicolato told RAI Sport.

“We did well to create scoring opportunities and were also a little unlucky.”

To make matters worse, Sandro Tonali and Riccardo Marchizza were both sent off and will be suspended for the next crucial group game against Spain on Saturday evening.

“This is not pleasing either, but these things happen in football. Now we’ll try to do our best. It would’ve been better to win, but even worse if we had lost.”

The fact Italy created several scoring opportunities after Tonali’s red card suggests the lack of intensity was not so much physical and psychological, trying to protect a 1-0 lead.

Spain beat Slovenia 3-0 in the other group game, with Roma midfielder Gonzalo Villar on target.

Javier Puado on a Brahim Diaz assist and Juan Miranda completed the rout.