Why Italy’s U21 stars aren’t at the Tokyo Olympics

by | Jul 23, 2021 19:02

The Tokyo Olympics have opened, but Italy are not represented in the football tournament, because a squad with Federico Chiesa, Manuel Locatelli and Nicolò Barella failed to qualify.

These were all key figures when the Azzurri won UEFA EURO 2020, beating England at Wembley Stadium on penalties and taking the senior squad’s unbeaten run to a record 34 games.

However, the same players were unable to book a spot for Italy at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The qualification for the European nations is given to whoever reaches the semi-finals of the European Under-21 Championship.

That tournament was played in 2019 under coach Gigi Di Biagio, who had a spectacular squad at his disposal.

They included Locatelli, Chiesa, Barella, Alex Meret, Alessandro Bastoni, Moise Kean, Patrick Cutrone, Nicolò Zaniolo, Sandro Tonali, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Gianluca Mancini.

Nonetheless, the Italy Under-21 side crashed out at the group stage, despite beating Spain 3-1 in their opener.

A 1-0 defeat to Poland proved decisive, as even with a 3-1 win over Belgium, Italy still went out on goal difference.

Spain went on to win the tournament, while France were promoted to the semi-final as the best second-placed side with seven points compared to Italy’s six.

Italy are the most successful side in the history of the European Under-21 Championship, winning the tournament in 1992, 2004, 1996, 2000 and 2004.

However, they have struggled badly in recent years and failed to qualify for three consecutive Olympic Games.

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