The Northern Ireland Under-19 men’s team had a tough assignment away to Italy in new boss Gareth McAuley’s first game in charge, however they performed well against a strong Italian outfit, especially in the second half, and narrowly lost the game by three goals to two.
International challenge match
Italy U19s 3 Northern Ireland U19s 2
Italy U19s: Bolzan, Parravicini, Franzoni
Northern Ireland U19s: Evans, Moses
Stadio Lungobisenzio, Prato
7 September 2023
McAuley had a 20-strong squad to choose from for the friendly in Tuscany. Sheffield Wednesday striker Devlan Moses was the one new face in the panel. All the other players previously played for either Northern Ireland’s U19s or U17s or both. Northern Ireland is hosting the UEFA U19 European Championship in 2024, which means the U19s qualify automatically. This was the first in a series of preparation games for the U19s ahead of the tournament next July.
How it happened
Italy took the lead in the fourth minute through striker Alessandro Bolzan, however Reece Evans equalised for Northern Ireland seven minutes later with a fine strike into the top corner.
The home side continued to press and scored their second on 22 minutes when midfielder Fabio Parravicini hit the back of the net.
Northern Ireland knocked the ball around well and created a few half-chances but largely found the Italian defence in resolute mood.
Italy extended their lead as half-time approached. This time it was forward Nicolo Franzoni who got his name on the scoresheet.
Half-time: Italy U19s 3 Northern Ireland U19s 1
Josh Briggs, Devlan Moses and Jack Patterson entered the fray after the break and they were quickly in the thick of the action.
Northern Ireland enjoyed more possession. Evans sped through and chipped the keeper, however the ball was cleared off the line by an Italian defender.
Then Rio Morgan hit a post with a decent strike before Moses opened his Northern Ireland account with a close range finish on 67 minutes.
Northern Ireland continued to play some neat football, however the Italians held out to secure the victory.
Next up for the U19s is an invitational tournament in Northern Ireland in November (13-20) where Portugal, Poland and Hungary will provide the opposition.
Full-time: Italy U19s 3 Northern Ireland U19s 2
Italy U19s: Renato Marin, Stefano Turco, Alessandro Milani, Diego Ripani, Saverio Domanico, Fabio Chiarodia (captain), Vincenzo Onofrietti Teixeira, Fabio Parravicini, Alessandro Bolzan, Daniele Quieto, Nicolo Franzoni.
Substitutes: Federco Magro (GK), Davide Bartesaghi, Luca Lipani, Calixte Filippo Mane, Saer Diop, Luca Di Maggio, Aaron Ciammaglichella, Matteo Spinacce, Marco Longoni, Marco Delle Monache, Alessandro Calligaris, Vittorio Magni.
Northern Ireland U19s: Pierce Charles, Phoenix Scholtz, Joel Thompson, Ruairi McConville (captain), Gallagher Lennon, Tom Atcheson, Lewis Trickett, Ryan Donnelly, Reece Evans, Leon Boyd, Rio Morgan.
Substitutes: Mason Munn (GK), Jack Patterson, George Goodman, Devlan Moses, Francis Turley, Josh Briggs, Brendan Hamilton, Rhys Walsh, Sean Brown.
Image: Leon Boyd in action for Northern Ireland U19s against Italy.