Italy booked a return to the FIFA U-20 World Cup quarter-finals as they saw off France 2-1 in Cheonan, eliminating one of the pre-tournament favourites thanks to a resilient display.
With unfinished business lingering for the Italians, having convincingly lost the UEFA European U-19 Championship final to France a year ago, they set about enacting some revenge. The opening sparring was initially cautious until Gli Azzurrini landed the first blow. Riccardo Orsolini swept home a left-footed volley to see Ludovic Batelli’s side concede for the first time.
It was a short-lived lead though as Amine Harit was felled in the Italian box and Jean-Kevin Augustin converted from the spot, opting for power rather than another Panenka – having struck the bar against Vietnam earlier in the tournament.
With both sides deservedly level at the break, Italy got their noses in front again. Giuseppe Panico this time was the scorer, hurling himself in at the back post to meet Andrea Favilli’s cross. Augustin so nearly pegged them back again moments later, but Andrea Zaccagno produced a stunning save to repel the Paris Saint-Germain striker’s deflected effort.
France pressed for a leveller but the Pro Vercelli keeper stood strong as Les Bleus peppered the Italian goal. However, the breakthrough never came and Italy will face Zambia in the quarter-finals, having reached the last eight on their most recent visit in 2009.