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Crawford disappointed as U21 q...
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Crawford disappointed as U21 qualification hopes dented in Pisa

The Republic of Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the 2021 UEFA U21 European Championships suffered a major blow on Tuesday afternoon. 

Jim Crawford's side were beaten 2-0 by an under-strength Italy side in Pisa.

The Italians had been rocked by a series of positive COVID-19 cases, and were forced to field a starting XI with only four U21 players with the balance coming from the Azzurri's U20 squad.

Unfortunately for Crawford and co, it was those more experienced players who cost Ireland.

Either side of the break, Italy found the net - first through Cagliari midfielder Riccardo Sottil, whose broke down the left, cut inside Gavin Bazunu's area, and curled right-footed past the Ireland keeper.

Ireland had started the game well, with Zack Elbouzedi's raids down the left flank providing trouble for the hosts.

Much like the senior squad, Ireland saw plenty of the ball but found opening up the Italian defence a completely different prospect.

Southampton's Michael Obafemi often looked stranded up front, retreating to receive the ball, and in the process taking him away from the dangerzone.

Italy doubled their lead just after the hour mark when Sottil turned provider for Patrick Cutrone, who found the net from close range after slipping the marking of Nathan Collins.

Danny Mandroiu and Jonathan Afolabi were sent on later in the game, as Ireland looked to retrieve something from their Italian job but it was to no avail.

The win sees Italy replace Ireland at the top of Group 1, with Crawford's side now in a battle to secure one of the best five runners-up spots to qualify for a first ever U21 finals tournament.

"We're very disappointed in the final result," Crawford said afterwards, "In the first 10 minutes, we were the first team to settle and we controlled the game without essentially creating many clear-cut chances. Then they got a goal just before half-time.

"In the second half, we weren't as composed on the ball and we looked tired at times which was understandable. And then they scored on a turnover which was disappointing from our point of view.

"We'll learn from this and there is no doubt about it we are still in the hunt for qualifying. We need six points from our final two games and that is what we will turn our attention to now."

Ireland's remaining games come against Iceland at Tallaght Stadium (November 12) before a trip to Luxembourg five-days later.

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European Championships Italy Jim Crawford Republic Of Ireland Republic Of Ireland U21 U21 U21 European Championships Under-21

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