Italy have finished third in the Under-20 World Cup after Alessandro Plizzari’s penalty shoot-out heroics against Uruguay.
The Azzurrini had already faced Uruguay in the group phase of the tournament on May 31, losing to a stunning Rodrigo Amaral free kick, but they reunited in the battle for the bronze medal.
Coach Alberigo Evani made numerous changes, including 17-year-old Milan talent Plizzari, but simply by reaching the final four it was already Italy’s best ever showing in the U-20 World Cup.
Augustin Canobbio hit the side-netting in the opening minutes after failing to make the most of a Matteo Pessina error, while Santiago Mele fingertipped a Giuseppe Panico volley over the bar and flapped a Leonardo Sernicola cross off the feet of Andrea Favilli from close range.
Juventus-owned Rodrigo Bentancur turned over from the edge of the box and Plizzari was fortunate to get away with a clumsy block on Santiago Viera.
Amaral’s angled drive skimmed the upright after the restart and Plizzari reacted quickly to parry Joaquin Ardaiz’s effort from point-blank range.
Italy had the ball in the net on 59 minutes, but Panico was correctly flagged offside for his stunning curler into the far top corner from a tight angle, as he’d wandered off when Rolando Mandragora made the through ball.
Nicolas De La Cruz spotted Plizzari off his line and tried from midfield, while Favilli just failed to get a touch to Panico’s cross-shot.
In the final minutes, Uruguay went on a rapid counter and Plizzari had to palm the Jose Rodriguez finish out from under the bar.
Deep into stoppages and with penalties looming, Plizzari flew to palm a Jose Rodriguez curler away, while Mandragora flashed an audacious snapshot just wide from distance.
It went to a shoot-out and was Uruguay’s third of the World Cup. This competition used the new ‘ABBA’ system where teams took two efforts back-to-back.
Plizzari guessed right to save Amaral and Boselli spot-kicks in a row, both of them to his left, giving the Azzurri a double advantage. Mandragora and Panico completed the rout on penalties to win third place in the Under-20 World Cup.
Uruguay 0-0 Italy (4-1 on pens)
Penalties: Valverde (goal), Vido (goal), Marchizza (goal), Amaral (saved), Boselli (saved), Mandragora (goal), Panico (goal)
Uruguay U20: Mele; José Rodríguez, Rogel, Viña, Mathías Olivera; Viera, Valverde, Bentancur; Canobbio (De La Cruz 61), Ardaiz (Boselli 77), Amaral
Italy U20: Plizzari; Sernicola, Romagna (Coppolaro 72), Marchizza, Pezzella; Orsolini (Bifulco 57), Cassata (Vido 87), Pessina, Mandragora; Favilli, Panico
Ref: Palazuelos (MEX)