Italy and Norway outclassed Israel and England at the UEFA Under-21 Championship on Saturday to virtually seal the fate of the Group A.
Italy, who beat England 1-0 in their first match, top the standings with six points and Norway are second with four. Israel still have a slim chance of advancing, but England are out.
Italy ensured qualification for the semi-finals by crushing the hosts 4-0 on a sultry night in Tel Aviv as Israel played more than half the match with 10 men. Earlier, Norway stunned England 3-1 in Petah Tikva.
Parma striker Ricardo Saponara put Italy ahead in the 18th minute when he easily slotted the ball low past Israel goalkeeper Boris Kleyman and the hosts’ hopes were dashed when midfielder Eyal Golasa was sent off in the 37th minute for a strong challenge on Saponara.
Italy’s top striker Lorenzo Insigne was substituted because of a leg injury, but there was only one team in contention for the remainder of the match.
Atalanta BC’s Manolo Gabiadini made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute with a powerful strike from the edge of the area and he added his second in the 53rd minute with a fierce free-kick.
Israel abandoned any attempt to attack and Italy took full advantage.
Alessandro Florenzi sealed Israel’s fate in the 71st minute, capitalizing on a crisp passing move to shoot through the legs of defender Ben Vahaba and into the net.
“Sometimes it can be more difficult to face a team like Israel than England, but they scored the goal at the right time to ensure they avoided danger,” Italy coach Devis Mangia told reporters.
Israel coach Guy Luzon was happy with his team.
“I cannot fault my players for the way they played, they did all they could and were excellent until we went a man down, but from that point there was no way for them to stand up to far better opponents,” Luzon said.
England dominated the early possession against Norway, but failed to breach the powerful Scandinavian defense and paid the price by conceding twice from defensive errors.
Frederik Semb Berge scored the first goal from a corner when he stabbed the ball low into Jack Butland’s net.
England continued to apply pressure, but Norway pounced with an excellent second goal in the 34th minute when Jo Inge Berget struck a diagonal shot into the top corner.
Marcus Eikrem scored Norway’s third in the 52nd minute from close range and England’s penalty converted by Craig Dawson was a mere consolation.
“It means a lot for Norwegian football. We created more chances than England and although there are so many good teams here, I have great hopes for our players,” Norway coach Tor Ole Skullerud said.
England coach Stuart Pearce admitted his team had not been good enough.
“We got out of it what we deserved, which was not much. Not enough of my players delivered a performance today for whatever reason,” Pearce said.
The Netherlands were set to take on Russia in Jerusalem and Spain were facing Germany in Netanya in Group B yesterday.