Italy forced to field under-20s against Ireland under-21s following Covid-19 outbreak

Tue, Oct 13 2020

Zack Elbouzedi in action for Ireland when the sides last met in 2019. Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

The Republic of Ireland will face an Italy under-20 side in Tuesday’s European Under-21 Championship qualifier following a Covid-19 outbreak in the under-21 camp.

Jim Crawford’s first game as 21s boss takes place at Arena Garibaldi-Romeo Anconetan in Pisa (kick-off 4pm) behind closed doors.

Italy, who sit three points behind group leaders Ireland in qualification, had already seen last week’s away game in Iceland postponed due to a number of positive tests.

A further three positive cases on Monday caused the Italian Football Federation to take the drastic step of drafting in Alberto Bollini’s under-20s.

Under-21 players Patrick Cutrone, Samuele Ricci, Riccardo Sottil and Sandro Tonali, who had already contracted the virus previously, have been retained from the under-21 squad.

Tonali played 90 minutes of AC Milan’s 2-0 win over Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium last month though Neil Farrugia, who featured for Rovers, failed to travel after picking up an injury.

“We are very sorry,” said under-21 manager Paolo Nicolato.

“We have traveled every possible path in a very complex situation. I am proud of my staff and my players, their behavior and their sense of responsibility gratify me much more than a victory ".

“The particular situation does not find us unprepared,” added the coordinator of Italy’s national youth teams, Maurizio Viscidi.

“Thanks to the synergy between Nicolato and Bollini, the players who will go on the pitch still have important qualities, even if at the moment they lack experience and cohesion.”