You would have never guessed that until minute 34’ they were leading the match 1-0.
Italy’s match with Portugal has been a tough one to watch, and an ever tougher one to play. The players were exhausted, the heath of the evening didn’t help them in keeping their minds straight. And at minute 44’ the expulsion of Italy’s only scorer of the match, Luca Lipani, completely changed the dynamics of the match. After that it was 5-1 for Portugal, with five great goals scored by: Rodrigo Ribeiro, Sá, Brás, Félix, and Gonçalves.
Alberto Bollini was particularly unhappy regarding Lipani’s expulsion: “Since he had a yellow card, I was not going to let him play in the second half. The red card came two minutes before the substitution I had in mind…”
Timing and luck haven’t been on Italy’s side that night.
And this wasn’t the only yellow card of the evening. Lipani, António Ribeiro, Justo, Koleosho, N’Dour, and D’Andrea a symptom that the match definitely didn’t go down without some physical confrontations.
The Italians were outnumbered, outplayed, outscored. “We had a problem with ball possession” – admits Bollini – the last two goals scored in two minutes were avoidable from our side”.
This is probably why Italy’s Captain, 19-year-old Filippo Missori, seems so down: “The coach told us to keep our head high, to play without losing our composure but we all know how it went in the end, unfortunately”.
It looks like what was really disappointing for the ‘Azzurri’ wasn’t even the defeat, but the knowledge that something more could have been done about it. Had they played in their best condition, the goal difference would have been significantly better. “In the last minutes, thanks to the other team’s ability and some mistakes on our side, we compromised the qualification”, Bollini admitted in all honesty right after the game.
Minutes from that moment, the Italian Under-19 team was already leaving the stadium. Bags all packed, players curled up in their seats, bus leading them through the streets while the stadium prepared itself for yet another round, yet another match.
They probably had a long meeting ahead of them that night and in the following days. The Maltese streets were busy, the seaside was hectic, but when the Italian team arrived at the hotel lobby ten minutes later everyone was quiet, almost bringing the silence with them all the way from the stadium. They sat on the chairs of the -1 floor. The terrace opening on that level made their hopelessness visible for everyone there to see.
The players looked sad and miserable. Yet, once you touch the bottom, you have no choice but to slowly swim up again. The future is always unknown, and you never know what it has in store for you. Filippo Missori knew something for sure about his team and about his companions, though. One way or another, on July 9th at 18:00, against Poland the only have one chance: ”We will give all of ourselves in order to win.’’
Credit: AIPS Media