Few teams can claim to have had a tougher run at the 2017 Men's U-20 World Cup than Italy. In Group D, the Italians played the champion teams from CONMEBOL and AFC qualifying, Uruguay and Japan. In the round of 16, Italy was up against the top team out of UEFA qualifying, France. Now it must face the AFCON U-20 champion, Zambia.
Signs are that the succession of tough tests has been to Italy's benefit: after losing, 1-0, to Uruguay, the team tied Japan - 2-2 - and went on to beat France, 2-1. The method that has served the Italians well since their opening-game loss to Uruguay is to score first. Riccardo Orsolini has three goals to his name at this World Cup, and those are the opening goals of Italy's last three games.
Scoring early is a proven way to shake Zambia at this tournament. The Zambians have yet to score a goal in the first half of any game they have played at this World Cup. But they compensate for a quiet first half with an explosive second 45.
Zambia's greatest weakness is arguably a tendency to get tripped up by complacency. The team has twice allowed late goals once a match appeared safe - against Portugal in the group stage, and against Germany in the round of 16. The latter game saw the Germans score twice in the closing minutes to force extra-time. And against apparent underdogs, Zambia has been even more careless: in the group stage, the team gave up two goals to Iran before surging back to win 4-2; against Costa Rica, with a place in the round of 16 already secure, the AFCON U-20 champ slumped to a 1-0 loss.
Perhaps fortunately for Zambia's chances of a semifinal berth, there is no reason to take Italy lightly - France was thought likely to win this World Cup until the Italians had their say in the round of 16.
For its part, Italy has no cause to fear any team remaining in the tournament. It has held its own against the best sides from South America, Asia, and Europe. And it will expect to go toe-to-toe with Africa's best as well.
Per livesoccertv.com, here's where to find the game if watching from the USA: