Afternoon all! Sports Mole
's live Under-21 European Championship coverage continues from the Stadion Miejski in Tychy as Czech Republic Under-21s
face Italy Under-21s
in Group C. Defeat for Czech Republic would all but see them eliminated from the competition, while a win for Italy would take them to within touching distance of the semi-finals. Stay tuned for all of the action!
Right, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news. Any changes from their first Group C fixtures at the weekend? Let's have a look at the two XIs that will start this Under-21 clash...
CZE: Zima; Havel, Luftner, Simic, Holzer; Soucek, Hubinek, Travnik; Jankto, Schick, Hasek
ITA: Donnarumma; Conti, Ferrari, Rugani, Calabria; Grassi, Cataldi, Pellegrini; Berardi, Petagna, Bernardeschi
Czech Republic's team shows three changes from the one beaten 2-0 by Germany on Sunday, with Ajax's Vaclav Cerny among those dropping out despite scoring seven times in 10 appearances at this level. Sampdoria's Patrik Schick again leads the line, while Michal Travnik
retains the armband.
Italy boss Di Biagio, meanwhile, has made four changes to the side that won 2-0 against Denmark. Mattia Caldara is replaced by Bologna's Alex Ferrari, while Davide Calabria comes in for Antonio Barreca at left-back. In midfield, Lorenzo Pellegrini is joined by Danilo Cataldi and Alberto Grassi, while Domenico Berardi
and Federico Bernardeschi will again support lone forward Andrea Petagna.
So there we have it. The two teams are in, and we are now just about 15 minutes from kickoff on this warm late afternoon in Poland. Italy were not exactly at their best in Sunday's clash with Denmark, but second-half goals from Pellegrini and Petagna ensured that Di Biagio's team recorded a 2-0 win. As a result, they are level on points with Germany Under-21s at the summit.
Should Italy win here, they would be on six points at the top, but Germany would then have the chance to move onto six points when they face Denmark later tonight. Only the winner of each of the three groups is guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals, while the fourth and final spot will go to the best runner-up. In truth, six points should be enough to progress either way, but that is not certain.
Italy are five-time winners of the Under-21 European Championships, but they went out in the group stage of the 2015 competition. They reached the semi-finals in 2009, but have not actually made the final since 2004, which was the last time that they triumphed. Italy, alongside Spain and Germany, are fancied to claim the trophy at the end of this month. Kickoff is fast approaching here!
As for Czech Republic, they are on the brink of elimination from the competition after a 2-0 defeat to Germany on Sunday. The Little Lions actually won the Under-21 European Championships in 2002, but they failed to qualify in 2013, and then went out in the group stage of the 2015 competition. Defeat in this match would leave them surely heading home early once again.
KICKOFF! Italy kick things off in Tychy...
... half-chance for Italy inside 13 seconds as Bernardeschi drives down the left before delivering a low cross into the Czech Republic box, but there are no takers. What a start that would have been!
It has been a very bright start to this match, with Czech Republic pressing high up the field, but Italy look very dangerous when they have the chance to break through the lines. I would be surprised if this was a dull 0-0, although I might have just cursed it with three minutes on the clock.
Jankto has been bright for Czech Republic in the opening five minutes, with the number 11 pulling into a wide position as he looks to upset Italy's back four. Interesting tactical battle at the moment.
Neither side is really in control of the contest at the moment as both take it in turns to lose possession of the ball. Italy are attempting to feed the ball wide when possible, while Czech Republic seemingly want to go through the centre. Still goalless with seven minutes on the clock.
Half-chance for Italy as Berardi chases down the Czech Republic goalkeeper following a loose back-pass, but Zima just about does enough to make the clearance. Berardi was sharp there.
Couple of half-chances for Italy in the early exchanges, but neither goalkeeper has been too concerned. You just get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - could be vital here.
SAVE! Super save from Zima as the Czech Republic goalkeeper keeps out a powerful strike from Bernardeschi, who had found all sorts of space inside the box. Should have scored!
Just a few signs that Italy are warming to their task here as the team in white start to move through the gears. Berardi looks to meet a through pass from Pellegrini, but the forward is ruled offside, much to the relief of the Czech Republic defence, which was caught high up the field once again.
Just a reminder that a win for Italy would see them move onto six points in Group C, but Germany would then have the chance to join them on six points when they face Denmark later tonight. Only the three group winners are guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals of the tournament later this month.
BOOKING! Hubinek (Czech) is booked for a poor tackle on Pellegrini.
Czech Republic continue to make ground in wide positions, but the quality into Schick has not exactly been great. Meanwhile, anything remotely close to Donnarumma is gathered by the AC Milan goalkeeper. It is a very watchable game, and we remain goalless with 20 minutes played.
Half-chance for Czech Republic as the ball drops for Holzer just outside the Italy box, but his effort was always rising over the crossbar. Donnarumma still has not had a save to make here.
Berardi continues to find space for Italy, but Petagna has been a little bit clumsy in possession of the ball. It must be said that the opening 24 minutes of this Group C clash have flown past.
GOAL! Czech Republic 1-0 Italy (Travnik)
Czech Republic make the breakthrough in the 24th minute as Travnik drives to the edge of the Italian box before drilling a low effort into the bottom corner. Brilliant from the captain there!
CLOSE! Berardi sends a free kick just wide of the Czech Republic post!
SAVE! Smart save from Donnarumma this time to keep out a low effort from Schick.
BOOKING! Berardi (Italy) is booked for a poor tackle on Holzer.
Little under 15 minutes of the first period remaining, and Czech Republic are worth their lead. Italy have had a couple of opportunities, but the team in red have been more incisive in the final third.
The referee has been more involved than he would have liked in the last couple of minutes following a number of late challenges. There has already been a couple of bookings in this match, and I suspect that there might be more. Italy are becoming extremely frustrated here.
CLOSE! Petagna shows super feet just outside the Czech Republic box, but his low effort is just wide of the post! It was excellent work from the powerful forward.
BOOKING! Cataldi (Italy) is booked following an altercation with Simic.
Little under 10 minutes of the first period remaining, and Czech Republic still lead 1-0.
Just a reminder that a defeat for Italy here, and a win for Germany later, would see the Germans advance into the semi-finals as winners of Group C. There is still a lot of football to be played in this match, however, and Italy do look capable of scoring when they click in the final third of the field.
Half-chance for Czech Republic as Italy get caught out in a defensive area, but Hasek and Jankto both see their attempts blocked after taking too long to release. Big let-off for the Italians there.
It must be said that this Italian back four is wide open, and a bit more care from Czech Republic would have surely seen them double their lead in this match. I would be surprised if we had seen the last of the goals in this one, especially with neither defence appearing secure!
Half-chance for Italy, but Pellegrini's cross is headed wide of the post by Bernardeschi.
Bernardeschi hits a free kick into the wall as Italy's frustrations continue here.
HALF-TIME: Czech Republic 1-0 Italy
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Czech Republic leading 1-0 at the interval courtesy of a super finish from Travnik in the 24th minute. Italy have had opportunities to put their name on the scoresheet, but it is the Czech Republic that lead this Group C clash.
STATISTICS! Italy have just about shaded the possession with 56%, while they hit the target with two of their six attempts in the opening 45 minutes. Czech Republic, meanwhile, managed two shots on target from five attempts. A lively first period has also brought three bookings, with Berardi and Cataldi picking up yellow cards for the Italians, and Hubinek having his name taken for Czech Republic.
BENCH WATCH! Italy boss Di Biaglio has a number of attacking options on his bench tonight, with Cerri, Locatelli and Pezzella all capable of making a difference in the second 45 minutes. As for Czech Republic, Chory, Cerny, Barak and Kasa are among those waiting to make an impression here.
RESTART! Czech Republic resume the action here...
... no changes from either manager at the break, which is not too much of a surprise. However, I suspect that both will be considering alterations as the second period gathers pace here.
Half-chance for Italy as Conti breaks into a wide position, but the defender fires the ball behind. Not sure whether that was a cross or a shot, but it was a serious waste from Conti!
Good pressure from Italy at the start of the second period, although Czech Republic remain pretty comfortable at the back as Simic clears a low cross from Berardi. You just get the feeling that the next goal - if there indeed is one - could be crucial. I fancy at least a couple more goals tonight.
Schick looks to catch out Donnarumma from distance, but his effort was always wide.
SAVE! Zima keeps out a decent effort from Berardi.
ITALY SUB! Chiesa replaces Grassi for the Italians.
All Italy at the moment in terms of possession, but they just cannot seem to find that final pass. Conti again breaks into the Czech Republic box after smart work from Berardi, but the offside flag is raised. Czech Republic just need to be careful here - there is still a lot of football to be played.
SAVE! Bernardeschi brings a really smart save from Zima once again!
There is no question that Italy are the team in the driving seat at the moment as they continue to move the ball in the final third of the field. Czech Republic cannot keep the ball as things stand.
Pass, pass, pass from Italy as they continue to move the ball in the final third of the field, but Czech Republic have a strong last line of defence, and continue to clear their lines here.
It is almost like a training exercise at the moment as Italy continue to camp outside the Czech Republic box, and there is still a lot of football to be played. Italy have a free kick in a dangerous area as Travnik brings Petagna to the deck. Really good opportunity for the Italians...
... SAVE! Zima gets down to keep out Berardi's dipping free kick!
Schick has a problem for Czech Republic after going down in a challenge with Pellegrini.
CZECH SUB! Havlik replaces Hasek for Czech Republic.
Little over 20 minutes of football remaining, and Czech Republic still lead 1-0. I would be surprised if we had seen the last of the goals, however, as Italy continue to flood forward. That said, there is just as much of a chance that Czech Republic could grab a second on the counter-attack.
GOAL! Czech Republic 1-1 Italy (Berardi)
It was coming! Finally Italy level the scores against Czech Republic as Berardi heads home from close range after initially being denied by Zima. It is no more than the Italians deserve here.
Czech Republic have a penalty shout as Schick strikes one towards the arm of Rugani, but the referee is not interested. Still a solid 20 minutes of football remaining here.
CLOSE! Wonderful chance for Italy to take the lead as Chiesa finds space in a wide position before delivering low into Petagna, but the number 11 just cannot make contact!
ITALY SUB! Gagliardini replaces Bernardeschi for the Italians.
CHANCE! Petagna chips the ball over the crossbar from close range!
BOOKING! Havlik (Czech Republic) is booked for a late tackle on Chiesa.
CZECH REPUBLIC SUB! Chory replaces Hubinek.
Little over 10 minutes of football remaining here, and Czech Republic cannot get out of their own half at the moment as Italy continue to force the issue. You just get the feeling that there is a third goal in this match, and Czech Republic are just about holding on with 79 minutes on the clock.
GOAL! Czech Republic 2-1 Italy (Havlik)
Oh my word! Czech Republic regain the lead in the 79th minute as Havlik threads the ball into the bottom corner after super hold-up play from Chory. Italy are stunned once again here!
It must be said that this has been an incredible game of football, and we are far from finished. Just a reminder that coming up after this one is Germany against Denmark, which should also be a cracker.
CZECH SUB! Schick is replaced by Sacek for Czech Republic.
ITALY SUB! Cerri replaces Cataldi for the Italians.
GOAL! Czech Republic 3-1 Italy (Luftner)
Oh my word! Sensational! Wonderful, wonderful goal from Luftner as the number six hammers one into the bottom corner from an absolute world away. It is a stunning effort from Luftner!
BOOKING! Cerri (Italy) is booked for dissent.
The frustration continues for the Italians as the referee looks to calm things down.
We are into the first of three additional minutes here.
Still Italy break forward, but time is running out as we enter the final minute of stoppage time.
FULL-TIME: Czech Republic 3-1 Italy
So there we have it. Czech Republic stun Italy with a 3-1 victory in Group C. It has left Italy on three points in the section, and given Germany a big boost ahead of their clash with Denmark. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live coverage of the action once again. Until next time!