Thursday, 25 June 2009

[Euro U21] Back to basics for Italy defenders

Italy's forwards have created a stir in Sweden but their back four of Marco Motta, Salvatore Bocchetti, Marco Andreolli and Domenico Criscito have been crucial to their progress to the semi-finals.

Salvatore Bocchetti & Domenico CriscitoPierluigi Casiraghi has stuck with the same defensive quartet throughout the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, and has been rewarded by some excellent performances.

Italy have conceded just twice in three games, while the men at the back have also been a menace up front, with Motta terrorising Belarus in a 2-1 win with his runs up the right and Criscito and Bocchetti coming close to scoring.

"Our main objective is making sure the team does not concede," Genoa defender Bocchetti said after a match that saw him hit the bar with one header and another cleared off the line by Mikhail Afanasiev.

"If I manage to score a goal too, I'll take it, but we have several players in the team who are better than me when it comes to finishing."

Genoa team-mate and fellow Neapolitan Criscito also had a header cleared off the line by Afanasiev, and was still smarting from another chance he passed up when Luca Cigarini's free-kick left him with only Pavel Chesnovski to beat.

"I should have done better with that header but I glanced it wide," he said. "But we are satisfied with what we did in the group stage.

"The team is improving with every game and we are sure we will play well against Germany."

While he did not score in Serie A last season, Bocchetti did enough at the back to earn his first senior call-up in March.

Criscito, meanwhile, scored three times in 35 games for Genoa last season, but explained: "Usually I am a left-sided midfielder in a 3-4-3 formation, but here I am a left-back in a 4-3-3.

"It does not make much difference, but in the first two games I was asked to focus on defending while against Belarus I could attack more. I'm happy to do what the coach tells me."

Success against Belarus ensured that Italy finished top of Group A, meaning that they stay on in Helsingborg for Friday's semi-final against Germany.

"We are definitely happy about that," Bocchetti added. "We are glad to have won the group and not have to move to another city.

"Now we can concentrate on Germany. We watched some of their games and they are a great team; it is no surprise they made it into the semi-finals.

"Mesut Ozil is their star but they have great attacking quality throughout so we will have to be careful in defence."

[UEFA Euro U21 Championships 2009]

Source: UEFA

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