It’ll be Israel for the Azzurrini. Pierluigi Casiraghi’s Italy U-21 team discovered their playoff phase opponent this Friday, after the Euro 2009 Under 21 Draw that gifted us clashes like Germany vs. France and Wales vs. England.
The home-and-away matches will be played on October 11/12 and 14/15 (with match venues, dates and kick-off times to be confirmed next Friday), while the final tournament itself will take place from June 15 to 29, 2009.
(From Uefa.com): Heavyweights Germany and France will meet in the play-offs for the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship and there is also an all-British contest after outsiders Wales were pitted against heavily fancied England at today’s draw in Malmo, Sweden.
Germany qualified as winners of Group 9 but they face a difficult test against 1988 champions France as they bid to win the tournament for the first time. Les Bleuets qualified as one of the four best runners-up from Group 10 behind Wales who, having surprised many by getting this far, now face a daunting tie against two-time champions England.
Italy have won the competition more times than any other side and now only Israel stand between the Azzurrini and a chance to win their sixth title. Having knocked out champions the Netherlands, winners in both 2006 and 2007, Switzerland have been paired with twice-winners Spain, the only side who did not drop a point in qualifying.
There will be at least one newcomer in Sweden next summer as Austria take on Finland with both nations bidding to reach the final tournament at this level for the first time. Serbia, runners-up last year, take on Denmark, while Turkey meet Belarus.
“It will be a demanding match” commented Casiraghi after the draw. “Israel is not a team which I know very well, but the fact they finished tied with Germany during the qualifiers makes think they are pretty good. All teams who have made it to the playoff round are good teams. Our only concern is having to play the first leg at home, but overall our fitness level will be much better then that it is now. We are just hoping to recover our injured players in time.”
2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship
First leg: October 11/12
Second leg: October 14/15