Italy Under-21 coach Pierluigi Casiraghi has signed a new two-year contract with the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).
Casiraghi met with FIGC President Giancarlo Abete in Milan to accept an agreement on a deal that takes him beyond the next UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals in Denmark, in June 2011.
Surprisingly appointed to replace Claudio Gentile in 2006, the 40-year-old guided the Azzurrini to the semi-finals this summer in Sweden where an unlucky 1-0 defeat by eventual winners Germany denied Italy a tilt for a record-extending sixth success at this level.
It was an improvement, however, on two years ago when they failed to reach the knockout stages in the Netherlands, and Casiraghi will now have at least one more go after committing until summer 2011.
The former Juventus and Lazio striker, who suffered an injury-enforced retirement in 1998, led Italy to success in the 2008 Toulon tournament in France and reached the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games in China later that summer.
Italy face Wales, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Luxembourg in qualifying Group 3, starting with a trip to Wales in September.
The 2011 finals tournament will be used as the qualification process for the 2012 Olympic Games football competition in England.
Prior to working as Italy Under-21 coach, Casiraghi had two stints in charge of Monza's youth team either side of a brief spell at Legnano.
Final GERMANY 4-0 ENGLAND Malmo New Stadium, Malmo Germany claimed the UEFA European Under-21 Championship title for the first time with a comprehensive 4-0 win against England in the final in Malmo. Mesut Ozil teed up Gonzalo Castro for the first goal on 23 minutes then scored the second with a long-range free-kick early in the second half as Germany avenged their defeat by England in the 1982 final. England briefly rallied, but Germany's defence held firm as it did in the 1-0 win over Italy in the semi-finals. Sandro Wagner's late double sealed a unique hat-trick of European youth titles for Germany, adding the U21 trophy to the U19 and U17 gongs collected over the last eleven months.
Final USA 2-3 BRAZIL Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg Brazil denied the United States of America a shock victory by coming back from two goals down to win the FIFA Confederations Cup in Johannesburg. A Clint Dempsey flick and a Landon Donovan strike on the counter put the US into a surprise 2-0 half-time lead. Luis Fabiano pulled one back for Brazil before Ricardo Kaka was denied an equaliser when his header was wrongly judged not to have crossed the line. Luis Fabiano's headed second levelled matters before, five minutes from time, Lucio nodded in a corner to win it.
USA: Howard, Spector, DeMerit, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Dempsey, Clark (Casey 88), Feilhaber (Bornstein 75), Donovan, Davies, Altidore (Kljestan 75). Brazil: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Luisao, Andre Santos (Dani Alves 66), Ramires (Elano 67), Felipe Melo, Silva, Kaka, Luis Fabiano, Robinho.
Third-Place Final SPAIN 3-2 SOUTH AFRICA AET Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg Spain secured victory over hosts South Africa in the FIFA Confederations Cup third-place play-off courtesy of a Xabi Alonso extra-time free-kick. South African substitute Katlego Mphela opened the scoring in the second half, lashing in a Siphiwe Tshabalala cross. With time running out, two goals in two minutes from Daniel Guiza seemed to have won it for European champions Spain until Mphela crashed home an injury-time free-kick to force extra-time. But Alonso curled in a set-piece in the second period of extra-time to win it.
Italy Under-21 captain Marco Motta said that what might have been was no good to the Azzurrini given the harsh reality of their semi-final defeat by Germany in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
The 23-year-old Motta, as much as anybody, could write a hard-luck story about Friday's match in Helsingborg after the right-back threatened the Germany goal with three first-half headers from identikit Sebastian Giovinco corners.
One effort struck the woodwork, another forced opposition keeper Manuel Neuer into a fine low save, while the third whistled centimetres past the far post.
Neuer would prove the Italian nemesis, making eleven stops compared with three by his opposite number Andrea Consigli, as Motta and company won the efforts on goal count by 27 to 12. The end result, though, was a 1-0 defeat.
"We are out and that is the only thing that counts," insisted the Roma defender. "I don't care about us hitting the post, the chances we created or how well we played.
"We are out of the tournament, full stop. Football is not about ifs and buts."
Andreas Beck's 48th-minute goal rendered any artistic merit by Pierluigi Casiraghi's side useless, even if Motta was able to call the overall campaign "a positive experience".
"I had a few chances, I tried to score, we could have been more precise... but we are out and that's all there is to say right now."
Italy's No.10 Giovinco, who glided effortlessly around the Olympia pitch during a particularly dominant first-half display by his team, was more inclined to appeal to Lady Luck.
"I think we have been unlucky throughout the tournament," said the 22-year-old Juventus attacker. "Given the number of chances we created, we deserved to reach the final.
"They had one shot and scored; we had several chances, hit the posts, had balls cleared off the line, but nothing.
"I think it was our destiny in this championship, because we had similar games against Serbia and Belarus in the group where the ball just wouldn't go in."
Giovinco, so light on his feet, was also able to turn and face the future. "We have nothing to regret," he added.
"I am very proud to have played with this group of players and I just hope we will have the chance to do it again in the senior national team. Maybe one day we will even get an opportunity to avenge this defeat."
If a tournament like this is an education in itself, then perhaps Italy's lesson was in learning to lose, however unfair that elimination felt.
"Games like this are strange, but that's also the beauty of football," said striker Mario Balotelli, whose finals statistics showed one goal and one red card for the Inter prodigy.
"You can't say we didn't score because we weren't good enough – it just wasn't our night. However, it was a good tournament and a useful experience."
Italy Under-21 coach Pierluigi Casiraghi said good fortune was the only element missing from his side following their elimination from the UEFA European Under-21 Championship against Germany.
The Azzurrini dominated the semi-final for long periods in Helsingborg, creating numerous goal-scoring opportunities.
However, Andreas Beck's stunning strike - Germany's first real shot of the game - three minutes in the second half was enough to secure a 1-0 win and book their place in Monday's final against England.
"We played really well, perhaps the best of the tournament," Casiraghi said. "We were excellent from the beginning and I'd have to say I am very happy and proud of my players.
"We just couldn't get the goal and that happens sometimes in football, but overall we showed that we are an excellent team.
"I really haven't got anything bad to say, because we created the chances tonight, we played attacking football, and we hit the post a number of times. Sometimes they go in for you, but tonight we didn't get the rub.
"The boys should be proud because they have shown the exceptional team they are and the great future they have ahead. Unfortunately sometimes this comes after disappointments like these."
The goal, coming against the run of play early in the second half, knocked Italy off their stride and Germany began to assume control in midfield, restricting the Azzurrini to fewer opportubnities.
"While we played at a really high level in the first half, making lots of opportunities, I think we continued to play good football after half-time and were still in control of the game," he continued.
"A lack of concentration led to their goal but that can happen – it was also a great shot and you have to remember that these balls are really difficult to save too. Unfortunately the ball didn't move quite as much for us.
"We were playing against a very good German team made up of Bundesliga players and they were never going to make it easy for us. It was also our fourth game of the tournament, yet we still kept a high level throughout - I'm happy for the football we've played in all the matches.
"I am sorry because we've had two wonderful years, but unfortunately football is like that and we must accept defeat."
Casiraghi, who replaced Claudio Gentile on the Italy bench in the summer of 2006, is now expected to hold talks about his future with the President of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Giancarlo Abete, early next week.
"The intention is that of proceeding along a common path, but we have both given each other some time before we speak," Casiraghi added. "These disappointments leave a mark but, let the night pass."
The media are already speculating that the recently depareted Bari coach Antonio Conte is being lined up to replace Casiraghi.
Semi-Finals ITALY 0-1 GERMANY Olympia Stadium, Helsingborg A long-range effort from defender Andreas Beck saw off Italy as Germany set up a repeat of their Group B meeting with England in the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship final. Beck struck three minutes into the second-half in Helsingborg and the goal proved enough to settle a semi-final tie that Pierluigi Casiraghi's Italy dominated start to finish. Germany return to the final for the first time since losing 5-4 to England over two legs in the 1982 showpiece and will meet their old rivals for the second time in the tournament after drawing 1-1 in their final group match.
SWEDEN 3-3 ENGLAND AET (Pens: 5-4) Gamla Ullevi Stadium, Gothenburg England will play in the final for the first time since 1984 after surviving a rousing three-goal Sweden comeback to oust the hosts in a penalty shoot-out following an epic meeting in Gothenburg. Neither side has an impressive semi-final record, England losing five of their previous seven ties while Sweden had won only one of three. The weight of history initially sat lighter on England's shoulders as they ruthlessly exposed Sweden's inability to defend corners in the first period, Martin Cranie, Nedum Onuoha and a Mattias Bjarsmyr own goal seemingly putting them in Monday's final. Marcus Berg's 68th-minute strike revived the Swedish challenge, however, Ola Toivonen adding another before Berg turned in a sensational equaliser nine minutes from time. England lost substitute Fraizer Campbell to a red card in the first additional period and Berg was denied his hat-trick by the crossbar in the second before the drama of the shoot-out, where Guillermo Molins hit the post with Sweden's sixth kick to send England through to a final against Germany.
Semi-Final 2 BRAZIL 1-0 SOUTH AFRICA Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg An 88th-minute free-kick from Daniel Alves sent an unconvincing Brazil into the FIFA Confederations Cup final and left hosts South Africa heartbroken. Alves came on late in the game and powered a strike into the far corner after Aaron Mokoena had conceded the set piece with a foul on Ramires. Mokoena had earlier sent a far post header from close range over. Steven Pienaar also came close for the hosts when his 25-yard shot was palmed wide by keeper Julio Cesar. Brazil had struggled to produce their fluent passing game and, until the winner from Alves, gave South Africa the scent of creating a similar upset to the other semi-final which saw the United States beat Spain. The South American giants now have the chance to defend the Confederatiosn Cup title against USA in Sunday's final.
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Luisao, Andre Santos (Dani Alves 82), Silva, Felipe Melo, Ramires, Kaka, Robinho, Luis Fabiano (Kleberson 90). South Africa: Khune, Gaxa, Booth, Mokoena, Masilela, Pienaar (Van Heerden 90), Dikgacoi, Mhlongo, Modise (Mashego 90), Tshabalala (Mphela 90), Parker.
For all the history between Italy and Germany, the nations have never before met in a competitive Under-21 match.
With a place in the final of the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship at stake, they take their rivalry to a new level in Helsingborg on Friday night.
Italy defeated Germany in the 1982 FIFA World Cup final and in the semi-finals in 1970 and 2006. This game, though, means more to Azzurrini coach Pierluigi Casiraghi than any preceding ones.
"There have been a few important matches between Italy and Germany, but this will be the one I remember most," the 40-year-old said.
The same applies to both sets of players as they look to leave their mark on a competition Italy have dominated. The Azzurrini have won five of their eight previous semi-finals and the championship a record five times.
They should also feel at home as they strive to add to that tally, having been based in Helsingborg and played all three Group A games at the Olympia Stadium.
After two wins and a draw, Casiraghi wants more of the same. "We must have the same approach, the same mentality," he said.
Casiraghi, though, must make changes from the side that beat Belarus on Tuesday to claim top spot in the group.
Striker Mario Balotelli returns from suspension – "I expect much of him because he can give so much" – but central midfielders Claudio Marchisio (suspended) and Paolo De Ceglie (injured) are unavailable.
Antonio Candreva and Daniele Dessena are expected to replace them, with Casiraghi openly concerned about how the alterations to the heart of his midfield might effect the team's balance.
After losing 1-0 to Germany in a November friendly in Osnabruck, he is also wary of the opposition.
"They have an international outlook and quality players like Mesut Ozil, Ashkan Dejagah and Marko Marin who can make the difference," he said.
"It's a good mix of tactical awareness and the German mentality, combined with the quality and creativity of second-generation players."
Mario Balotelli, Salvatore Bocchetti, Andrea Consigli, Marco Motta and Francesco Pisano would miss a possible final should they get cautioned against the Germans.
Germany progressed as Group B runners-up without fully hitting their stride, and coach Horst Hrubesch believes the best is yet to come from his charges.
"We haven't shown everything up to now, only in patches," he said. "We're optimistic that we'll show our full potential against Italy.
"They are strong but we'll focus on our own qualities and believe we'll win."
Germany have never won this competition and this generation is hungry for success. "This team is ready to work and eat dirt if necessary," he promised.
"There is a good spirit and the players have grown together during the tournament. We want to win and have the right mentality."
England play hosts Sweden in Gothenburg in the first semi-final tie.
[Euro U21] Dessena plans joyful tribute to De Ceglie
Italy midfielder Daniele Dessena is known for eccentric goal celebrations and should he register against Germany in Friday's semi-final at the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, he has promised something extra special for injured team-mate Paolo De Ceglie.
De Ceglie left the Italy camp on Wednesday after twisting his left ankle during the 2-1 win over Belarus the day before.
Dessena, who once took his boot off and pretended to use it as a mobile phone after scoring, could take his place against Germany and will be keeping the Juventus player in mind.
"I don't plan celebrations, I usually do whatever comes into my head, but I think the whole team will dedicate something to Paolo if we score," he said.
With Claudio Marchisio also missing through suspension, the Sampdoria tyro will likely benefit from the reshuffle forced upon coach Pierluigi Casiraghi.
"I don't know if I will play, but if Casiraghi looks around he will see me with my hand up. However, there are several players hoping to start.
"Whoever plays will give his best to help the team reach the final."
Flanking Casiraghi in Italy's pre-match news conference, Dessena laughed when the coach said the younger man would be happy to play even in goal.
"I can adapt to different roles, I can come on as a substitute, it's not a problem for me," the 22-year-old said.
"I have also scored a few goals. Somebody says they were all bad shots, but I think all goals are beautiful. I will try to score another against Germany."
Asked whether he would prefer to face England or Sweden in the final should Italy progress, he replied: "I honestly don't care, but playing a final would be a great reward for two years' work.
"However, we have to focus on Germany. We have worked hard for this and want to make Italy the best in Europe."
He added of the task ahead in Helsingborg: "Germany have quality players up front, and resolute defenders at the back.
"They close every space and are dangerous on the break. They are well-organised and always show their strength when it matters most, but our confidence has improved with our two victories [against Sweden and Belarus] and we are eager to show how good this squad is."
If some of Italy's greatest triumphs at senior level have come against Germany, Dessena hopes to add another page to an illustrious history.
"I was talking about that with Sebastian [Giovinco] the other day. We think it's destiny that we have to play the semi-final against Germany, as Italy did in the 2006 World Cup. We can still picture that victory, but this time we aren't watching on TV – we are the main actors and we will try to reach the final too."
Italy's forwards have created a stir in Sweden but their back four of Marco Motta, Salvatore Bocchetti, Marco Andreolli and Domenico Criscito have been crucial to their progress to the semi-finals.
Pierluigi Casiraghi has stuck with the same defensive quartet throughout the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, and has been rewarded by some excellent performances.
Italy have conceded just twice in three games, while the men at the back have also been a menace up front, with Motta terrorising Belarus in a 2-1 win with his runs up the right and Criscito and Bocchetti coming close to scoring.
"Our main objective is making sure the team does not concede," Genoa defender Bocchetti said after a match that saw him hit the bar with one header and another cleared off the line by Mikhail Afanasiev.
"If I manage to score a goal too, I'll take it, but we have several players in the team who are better than me when it comes to finishing."
Genoa team-mate and fellow Neapolitan Criscito also had a header cleared off the line by Afanasiev, and was still smarting from another chance he passed up when Luca Cigarini's free-kick left him with only Pavel Chesnovski to beat.
"I should have done better with that header but I glanced it wide," he said. "But we are satisfied with what we did in the group stage.
"The team is improving with every game and we are sure we will play well against Germany."
While he did not score in Serie A last season, Bocchetti did enough at the back to earn his first senior call-up in March.
Criscito, meanwhile, scored three times in 35 games for Genoa last season, but explained: "Usually I am a left-sided midfielder in a 3-4-3 formation, but here I am a left-back in a 4-3-3.
"It does not make much difference, but in the first two games I was asked to focus on defending while against Belarus I could attack more. I'm happy to do what the coach tells me."
Success against Belarus ensured that Italy finished top of Group A, meaning that they stay on in Helsingborg for Friday's semi-final against Germany.
"We are definitely happy about that," Bocchetti added. "We are glad to have won the group and not have to move to another city.
"Now we can concentrate on Germany. We watched some of their games and they are a great team; it is no surprise they made it into the semi-finals.
"Mesut Ozil is their star but they have great attacking quality throughout so we will have to be careful in defence."
Semi-Final 1 SPAIN 0-2 USA Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein The United States of America caused one of the biggest upsets in world football by beating European champions Spain in the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup. Jozy Altidore broke the deadlock on 27 minutes when he turned Joan Capdevila and beat Iker Casillas from 15 yards. Clint Dempsey then doubled the lead on 74 minutes when he converted Landon Donovan's pass from close range. The defeat in Bloemfontein ended Spain's world record of 15 straight wins and their 35-match unbeaten run. The Americans will now play Brazil or hosts South Africa in Sunday's final.
Pierluigi Casiraghi admitted there were some nerves on the Italy bench before Robert Acquafresca sealed the Azzurrini's place in the semi-finals of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
Italy had to come from behind to beat Belarus 2-1 in Helsingborg last night, a result that means the five-time European champions finished top of Group A to set up a semi-final against Germany on Friday.
"It was a very difficult game and I admit we were getting a little bit nervous on the bench because we had so many chances but could not take them," said Casiraghi.
"It was an important result. We reached our first objective which was to get to the semi-finals.
"Now we will meet Germany. It will be a great game between two big teams with talented players. We played them in a friendly last winter [Germany won 1-0 in November] and we know they have a number of quality players.
"Both teams are excellent."
Italy have been based in Helsingborg for the duration of the tournament and will stay there to play their fourth consecutive game at the Olympia Stadium against Germany on Friday night.
Casiraghi will be forced to make changes to his line-up for the last four tie as Juventus full-back Paolo De Ceglie will play no further part in the tournament after sustaining an ankle injury.
The 22-year-old twisted his left ankle early on in the win against Belarus, and was replaced by Daniele Dessena. With no hope of recovering in time for Friday, nor a possible final three days later, he will now return to Italy.
The Azzurrini will also be without the suspended Claudio Marchisio - who picked up his second yellow card of the tournament - for the Germany game, but Inter striker Mario Balotelli is available as he returns from his own suspension.
The Germans qualified as runners-up from Group B with draws against Spain and England, either side of their sole victory over Finland.
Inter-owned Acquafresca, who was Italy's top scorer in qualifying, was again the goalscoring hero for Casiraghi's men with his second and third goals of the tournament.
"I am very happy for me and the team," he reacted. "It was important to win and we played a great match.
"We did not score as many as we deserved to and missed some chances which made it close. But we overcame a difficult moment with the suspension of Balotelli and the injury to De Ceglie."
"I am very proud of my team. It is of course great that I have scored three goals, but I'm always hungry for more. It is not important who scores the goals – our aim is to win the European Championship," he concluded.
Group A - Matchday 3 BELARUS 1-2 ITALY Olympia Stadium, Helsingborg Two goals from Robert Acquafresca secured Italy's place in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship semi-finals against Germany, but despite dominating possession they were made to wait before seeing off a dogged Belarus 2-1 in Helsingborg. Belarus had stunned the five-time champions by taking the lead through Sergei Kislyak in the 45th minute only for the Azzurrini to hit back immediately through Acquafresca's penalty with the final kick of the first half. With the score at 1-1 and Sweden beating Serbia in the night's other match, Belarus could still have advanced with victory and it was not until the 75th minute that Acquafresca finally settled Azzurrini nerves with his second of the game to ensure they finished top of Group A. Things did not all go Italy's way, though. Claudio Marchisio was booked and will miss Friday's semi-final through suspension while Paolo De Ceglie is a doubt after being taken off in the first half with an ankle injury.
SERBIA 1-3 SWEDEN Malmo New Stadium, Malmo Sweden marched into the semi-finals after a convincing 3-1 victory against a Serbia team reduced to nine men by the dismissals of Nikola Petkovic and new Genoa signing Nenad Tomovic. The hosts powered into an early lead thanks to two-goal Marcus Berg, and though Gojko Kacar briefly reduced arrears, Ola Toivonen clinched the win after 29 minutes. The two sendings-off, coming either side of half-time, confirmed Serbia's fate. As a result the Swedes, requiring only a draw to advance, finished second in Group A to book a Gothenburg date with Group B winners England on Friday.
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