Italy secured their place in the knockout stages of the UEFA European Under-16 Championship, going through to a quarter-final against Spain on goal difference after a 1-1 draw against Switzerland at South Leeds stadium.
An evenly matched first half produced few real shots on goal and Switzerland may feel unlucky to have gone 1-0 down when Francesco Lodi’s shot was deflected into the net in the 22nd minute.
A well structured attack by the Swiss in the 27th minute ended in a weak effort by Stephan Lichsteiner, who failed to test Italian goalkeeper Andrea Ivaldi, and a well marshalled Swiss defence thwarted another Italian attack just before the break.
The Swiss scored a deserved equaliser in the 43rd minute when Joël Gasche headed in an inswinging free-kick from the left. But the Swiss will be disappointed after a good chance for Cédric Tsimba was saved in the 49th minute and a strong case for a penalty was dismissed in the 64th.
The best chance for the Italians fell to the skilful Lodi whose left-foot strike ricocheted off the bar. In a frantic finale Italy’s defence held out against a 10-man Swiss attack and a last-minute free-kick was deflected to safety.
Italy coach Paolo Berrettini said: "Our main objective was to reach the next stage and we’re very pleased to have achieved that. Although we weren’t particularly strong technically tonight, we put in a spirited performance in a hard game. We will be looking for a strong technical performance in our next game."