Italy underlined their status as Euro 2020 contenders again on Friday with a 2-1 victory over world ranking leaders Belgium in an exciting quarter-final match. Nicolo Barella in the 31st minute and Lorenzo Insigne 13 minutes later were on target for the Azzurri who extended a national record of unbeaten matches to 32. Belgium were […]
Italy underlined their status as Euro 2020 contenders again on Friday with a 2-1 victory over world ranking leaders Belgium in an exciting quarter-final match.
Nicolo Barella in the 31st minute and Lorenzo Insigne 13 minutes later were on target for the Azzurri who extended a national record of unbeaten matches to 32.
Belgium were on target from Romelu Lukaku from a penalty kick but their golden generation once again failed to go all the way for a first major title for the nation.
Italy now face Spain in the semi-finals in Tuesday at Wembley for a place in the final at the famed London arena on July 11.
Spain had beaten Switzerland on penalty kicks earlier on Friday.
Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the 2012 final but Italy got a revenge of sorts 2-0 in the last 16 in 2016 with a tactical masterclass.
Roberto Mancini’s men will hope for the same this time around.
Now they seemed back on track with a performance vastly improved compared to their narrow last-16 extra time win over Austria and more in line with their three group stage wins.
“We were deserved winners. The lads were really good and we could have scored more goals,” Mancini said.
“We had no minimal goal for the tournament, we wanted to achieve as much as possible. There are two more games and we will see what happens.”
Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said: “This hits hard but we knew it was going to be a tough game.
“I think we gave the first goal away a bit to easily. It really could have gone either way, but Italy also deserved to win here.”
Injured Belgium captain Eden Hazard lost a race against time and was not even in the squad.
Teenager Jeremy Doku coming on in his place, while Kevin de Bruyne was able to play in spite of an ankle problem.
Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini returned from a muscle injury and Federico Chiesa also started for the Azzurri.
Belgium dominated the early minutes but the ball was in their net first in the 13th minute, with Chiellini however ruled offside in a video review.
Italy had scored when Chiellini flicked on to Leonardo Bonucci to score off a free-kick.
At the other end, Gianluigi Donnarumma was forced to a first big save by a curling shot from de Bruyne, and minutes later against Lukaku as well on a Belgian counter.
The ball was in the Belgian net again in the 31st minute and this time it counted.
Barella shot into the far left corner after Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen failed to clear decisively.
And Insigne curled into the right corner for 2-0 in the 44th minute after a well-executed move with lots of possession.
Belgium got a lifeline before the break from Lukaku’s penalty kick, with the decision after Giovanni di Lorenzo’s shove against the lively Doku appearing very harsh.
Lukaku incredibly hit the ball against the thigh of Leonardo Spinazzola from point-blank range in a fast attack, and Belgium threatened again from Nacer Chadli seconds after he came on.
But Chadli only lasted two more minutes before limping off injured, and Spinazzola was taken away on a stretcher with what appeared to be a grave Achilles injury.
Doku fired high from long range with some 10 minutes left as Belgium failed to get the equaliser in a hectic finale.
Italy can now continue dreaming of getting a second title after that from 1968.