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U21 Euro Championships

Spain-Italy live: Euro Championships semi-final match report

Saul Niuez ended Italy's dreams of a final on Friday single-handedly as he scored a hat-trick in 21 minutes in the second half to end the game as a contest.
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Update:
KRAKOW, POLAND - JUNE 27:  Saul Niguez of Spain celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Semi Final match between Spain and Italy at Krakow Stadium on June 27, 2017 in Krakow, Poland.  (Photo by Adam Nurkiewic
Adam NurkiewiczGetty Images

Spain 3-1 Italy: match report

Spain will play Germany in the final of the Euro under-21s in Poland after beating Italy 3-1 in the semi-final in Krakow on Tuesday night.

In what started out as a cagey affair, Saul Niguez decided to take the game on his shoulders and scored three goals in just over 20 minutes in the second half to send Italy packing.

The first half saw both sides try to assert themselves on the game without much luck in front of goal. Bernardeschi for Italy was looking particularly fleet of foot in Spain's penalty area while Italy were finding it hard to pin Sandro down in their own area.

The first half, despite being hectic, saw little by way of chances though.

Spain's Saul Niguez celebrates after scoring a goal
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Spain's Saul Niguez celebrates after scoring a goalKACPER PEMPELREUTERS

That all changed in the second half. Just eight minutes in, Saul Niguez recieved a pass off Dani Ceballos in the penalty area and struck across his body to beat Gigi Donnarumma for the first. It was Saul's third goal of the competition in his third game.

Just five minutes later, with 58 played, Roberto Gagliardini was shown his second yellow after multiple fouls on Dani Ceballos. Time and time again, the Real Betis midfield beat him and the Italian finally crossed the line. Italy were down to 10 men and looked to be heading out of the competition.

Bernardeschi cut inside from the left and made his way across the edge of the penalty area as he waiting for the chance to shoot before striking towards Kepa and Spain's goals. It took a deflection off Vallejo and beat the Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper to give Italy hope.

Three minutes later with 65 on the clock, Deulofeu took the ball way outside the box. He though about shooting before passing to Saul, who was stood right next to him. Saul thought about shooting and went through with it. His shoot went whizzing past Donnarumma and Spain were back in front.

Just nine minutes later, Ceballos started an attack down the left and passed to Asensio. He made a move towards goal and pulled the ball back to Saul, who finished with his trusty left foot. Spain were up 3-1 and Italy were shellshocked.

They had little or no chance of a comeback when they had thrown what they had at the Spaniards and every time, Saul responded. Spain continue on to a final against Germany on Friday, and based on tonight, look like world beaters.

Spain-Italy live stream online: 2017 U-21 Euros semi-final latest news

Spain vs Italy live stream: 2017 U-21 Euros semi-final match preview

Group B winners Spain take on Group C winners Italy in a semi-final clash that pits the tournament's two most successful nations - with four and five titles, respectively - against each other.

Indeed, the countries have met in no fewer than three finals of the Under-21 Euros, winning one each in 1986 and 1996 before a Spain side featuring the likes of Álvaro Morata and Thiago Alcántara saw off the Italians 4-2 to lift the trophy in Israel four years ago.

More recently, the teams also faced off in a friendly in Rome in March - a match-up that also went the way of the Spaniards (2-1), courtesy of goals by Saúl Ñíguez and Borja Mayoral.

Spain

Spain absolutely sauntered into the semis, sealing qualification with a game to spare by following up a 5-0 thumping of Macedonia with a 3-1 victory against Portugal.

With a last-four berth already assured, coach Albert Celades was able to rest his entire matchday two line-up for the final Group B game against Serbia, in which a 1-0 win ensured La Rojita finished the round with nine points from a possible nine.

Lorenzo Pellegrini of Italy shoots during the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group C match against the Czech Republic.
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Lorenzo Pellegrini of Italy shoots during the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group C match against the Czech Republic.Stephen PondGetty Images

Despite being able to recall a refreshed first-choice XI in Krakow, Celades sought to play down the impact of this in his pre-match press conference, while also insisting that Italy won't be affected by the loss of Domenico Berardi and Andrea Conti to suspension.

"Their biggest strength is their collective so I think it won't be a factor," he said.

Among the men rested against Serbia was Marco Asensio, who is joint top scorer at the Euros with three goals - all netted during a fantastic display against Macedonia.

Speaking to the media on Monday, Asensio rebuffed suggestions that Spain are semi-final favourites, and discussed Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who is being linked with a move to join him at Real Madrid.

"Is he ready to play for Real? That is not something I decide," Asensio explained. "I can only say he's a great goalie but tomorrow I hope things don't go his way against us."

Italy

Italy's progress in Poland has been less serene than Spain's, with a 2-0 opening win over Denmark followed by a 3-1 loss to the Czech Republic that left their hopes of advancing in the balance.

However, a 1-0 win over Germany in their final game saw them top their section, with the Germans also reaching the semis as the group stage's best second-placed side.

It's a scoreline that has led to cries of foul play from Slovakia, who were runners-up in Group A but found themselves edged out by the Germany for a semi-final place.

In addition to the absence of Berardi and Conti, Italy coach Luigi Di Biagio could also be without centre-back Mattia Caldara, who is a late fitness doubt, telling the media on Monday: "Tomorrow we’ll evaluate if it's worth risking him".

Di Biagio was under no illusions as to the challenge Spain pose to his side's aspirations of making the final, declaring: "I would say they are [tournament] favourites, they have a great team."

Meanwhile, Donnarumma said that his full focus is on Tuesday's semi-final, in spite of the recent furore over his future.

"I am calm, I am thinking only about tomorrow's game. I am relaxed, we are thinking about tomorrow. My future is for after the tournament."

Spain vs Italy live stream: possible line-ups

Spain XI: Kepa; Bellerín, Meré, Vallejo, Jonny; Llorente, Saúl, Ceballos; Deulofeu, Sandro, Asensio

Coach: Albert Celades

Italy XI: Donnarumma, Calabria, Rugani, Caldara, Barreca, Gagliardi, Pellegrini, Benassi, Bernardeschi, Petagna, Chiesa

Coach: Luigi Di Biagio

Spain-Italy live stream online: betting

Priced at 13/20, Spain are the bookies' clear favourites to clinch a place in Friday's final, while Italy are valued back at 17/4 to snuff out La Rojita's Euros dream and qualify for the title decider.

Bet on Spain vs Italy now

Follow the live coverage match of the U-21 European Championships between: Germany-Spain

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