Mancini fittingly has final say as Italy outlast Austria in historic win

By Sports Desk June 26, 2021

For a moment it looked as though we were about to say goodbye to the outstanding team of the Euro 2020 group stage as early as the round-of-16.

But VAR came to the rescue in denying Marko Arnautovic a famous goal and, from then on, you just had the feeling fate was on Italy's side.

Roberto Mancini's Azzurri were aiming to extend their unbeaten run to 31 matches, setting a new record, and while Austria certainly went for it towards the end as they pulled one back through Sasa Kalajdzic, Italy saw out a historic 2-1 victory.

But where there was unrelenting praise before, there were arguably doubts about Italy and their system for the first time in Euro 2020, with Mancini forced to turn to his bench to get the job done in extra-time.

 

It should be said, for long periods they were dominant in the first half at Wembley, with their 12 shots the second-most Italy have managed in the opening 45 minutes of games at the tournament.

But there was unquestionably something missing, with Austria shrewdly set up by Franco Foda.

The German coach has proven tactically flexible in Euro 2020, switching between a back three and a back four – he chose the latter on this occasion as they zoned in on Italy's threat from the flanks.

David Alaba had been deployed at centre-back against the Netherlands but moved to left-back in the 1-0 win over Ukraine, and that was where he remained here.

Foda went with a double pivot again, giving the centre-backs extra protection but also ensuring Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne had little joy when cutting in from their respective wings, finding themselves crowded out more often than not by Florian Grillitsch and Xaver Schlager, whose five tackles were more than anyone else.

It became a recurring theme, with the only Italy player who looked even moderately threatening out wide for much of the game being Leonardo Spinazzola.

The left-back was bright in the opening 45 minutes, making some lung-busting runs up the flank and one of those led to arguably their best chance, when Nicolo Barella was denied by Daniel Bachmann. Nevertheless, he too was rather quieter after half-time.

Italy's struggles out wide were further highlighted by the fact they failed to deliver any open-play crosses before the break for the first time in a Euros game since 1980.

This was made even more surprising given 74.2 per cent of their attacks in the group stage came down the flanks. While an attack from the wings doesn't necessarily mean a cross has to be played in, it does suggest Foda was wise to focus his attentions on this area of the pitch.

Italy also weren't helped by the fact Giovanni Di Lorenzo offered very little by way of support to Berardi, who was a source of frustration well into the second period.

 

That was with the exception of one moment very early on in the second half, as Berardi got to the byline and drilled a low ball into the danger zone, much in the same vein as his assist for Manuel Locatelli against Turkey.

This time a team-mate couldn't get it into the goal, but instead of that acting as a source of encouragement, it was a tactic Berardi was barely able to carry out again.

Berardi's performance was summed up by his scissor-kick attempt in the 84th minute that was sliced high and wide. It was a final action befitting his underwhelming performance before being replaced by Federico Chiesa.

It was something of a surprise on matchday one when Berardi was the chosen man ahead of Chiesa out on the right. While the former justified that call in his first few games, the Juventus talent impressively staked his own claim here.

Five minutes into extra-time, Chiesa had hung out wide before springing into the box to receive a lofted pass from Spinazzola. He controlled it with his head, before cleverly knocking it underneath the approaching Konrad Laimer and smashing into the far side of the goal with a vengeance.

Another substitute in Matteo Pessina then got the goal that proved decisive, making the most of good hold-up play by Francesco Acerbi and powering home.

While Pessina's initial introduction for Marco Verratti, who had been key for Italy beforehand, raised eyebrows, Mancini's decision was ultimately vindicated in that moment.

Kalajdzic's late header saw him become the first player to score against Italy since Donny van de Beek for the Netherlands last October, but it could not prevent Italy from marching on to the quarter-finals.

On a day that saw Italy create history, with their unbeaten run as much to do with Mancini as any player such has been the transformative impact he's had, it was only fitting that his in-game changes made the difference.

Related items

  • Bayern Munich appoint former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to board Bayern Munich appoint former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to board

    Bayern Munich have confirmed the appointment of former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to the club’s board.

    The 50-year-old – who came through the Bayern youth ranks and made one senior appearance – will start his new role with the Bundesliga champions on March 1 and has signed a contract until June 2027.

    Former Germany Under-21 defender Eberl went on to have spells at Bochum and Greuther Furth before signing with Borussia Monchengladbach, where he later moved into coaching and then became director of sport.

    Eberl moved to a similar position at RB Leipzig in December 2022, but was relieved of his duties at the club just nine months later.

    “I spent my entire childhood and youth at FC Bayern and in Munich, so it’s something special for me to return in a new role to the club where it all began,” Eberl said on the Bayern Munich website.

    “The job as board member for sport is a great challenge, which I will approach with a lot of respect and humility, but with even more anticipation.

    “Together with everyone here, I want to do everything I can to ensure that FC Bayern continues to be successful in the future and brings joy to its fans.”

    Bayern announced the club’s executive board would consist of three positions from July 1 – a chief executive, a chief financial and sales officer as well as a board member for sport, which will be Eberl’s role.

  • Everton 10-point deduction cut to six but club still face further financial case Everton 10-point deduction cut to six but club still face further financial case

    Everton are up to 15th in the Premier League after their penalty for breaching the competition’s financial rules was reduced to six points on appeal, but they face the threat of further sanction with a second case still to be heard.

    An independent appeal board set aside the 10-point sanction originally imposed by a commission in November for breaching league profitability and sustainability rules (PSR), with the new reduced penalty lifting the Toffees’ points tally from 21 to 25.

    Everton said they were “satisfied” the appeal had resulted in a reduction in the points penalty, but the club are not wholly out of the woods and could have a further points sanction imposed in relation to a second PSR complaint which was laid on January 15.

    That one has to be completely concluded before June 1 – the date when promoted clubs receive their Premier League ‘shares’.

    It is also unclear whether the club may face compensation claims related to the first PSR breach. A ruling published at the time of the original 10-point penalty said five clubs – Burnley, Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham Forest and Southampton – had 28 days from written receipt of a copy of the decision against Everton to pursue a claim.

    None of those clubs confirmed whether they had pursued a claim when contacted by the PA news agency last week. One of them, Forest, have had a PSR complaint lodged against them since the original sanction was issued against Everton.

    The reduced six-point penalty for Everton relates to breaching PSR in the assessment period up to the 2021-22 season. The appeal board rejected seven grounds for mitigation put forward by Everton but did find the original commission made legal errors.

    The first of those was in relation to club representations to the Premier League in August 2022 over stadium debt, which the original commission said were “less than frank”.

    While the appeal board found these representations were “materially wrong”, it accepted that it had never been the Premier League’s case that this was anything other than an innocent mistake by Everton.

    Similarly, the appeal board said a breach of Premier League rule B.15, which requires clubs to act in utmost good faith, was never part of the original complaint against the club.

    “The first time rule B.15 appeared was in the commission’s decision,” the appeal board ruling stated.

    The appeal board also found it was wrong of the commission not to take into account available benchmarks for sanction, such as EFL guidelines.

    The appeal board revealed it considered other possible sanctions, such as a fine or a ban on registering players, but concluded a points deduction was warranted.

    “The unfair advantage achieved by a breach may include a financial advantage over other clubs, but it is most immediately a sporting advantage and consequently the sanction for breach can legitimately focus on sporting disadvantage,” the appeal board decision said.

    The reduction in penalty means Luton are now four points from safety in the Premier League, but their manager Rob Edwards accepted the issue was out of the Hatters’ hands.

    Forest drop to 17th, and their manager Nuno Espirito Santo said: “Regarding the hearing and the decision, we are waiting.

    “There are people in the club that are taking care of that. So these questions are not appropriate for me.”

    Everton released a statement following the publication of the revised sanction.

    “While the club is still digesting the appeal board’s decision, we are satisfied our appeal has resulted in a reduction in the points sanction,” the statement read.

    “We understand the appeal board considered the 10-point deduction originally imposed to be inappropriate when assessed against the available benchmarks of which the club made the commission aware, including the position under the relevant EFL regulations, and the nine-point deduction that is imposed under the Premier League’s own rules in the event of insolvency.

    “The club is also particularly pleased with the appeal board’s decision to overturn the original commission’s finding that the club failed to act in utmost good faith.

    “That decision, along with reducing the points deduction, was an incredibly important point of principle for the club on appeal. The club, therefore, feels vindicated in pursuing its appeal.”

    The club said they remain fully committed to co-operating with the Premier League in respect of the second complaint, which relates to a PSR breach in the assessment period up to the end of the 2022-23 season.

    If clubs breach PSRs in consecutive seasons, they can provide evidence and make submissions to the independent commission hearing their case that any crossover should be treated as a mitigating factor.

    Labour MP Ian Byrne, who tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons in response to the initial 10-point deduction, wrote on X: “I was proud to be able to take the fight against Everton’s disproportionate & unfair penalty to Parliament and am pleased to see their points deduction reduced today.”

  • Talking points ahead of the FA Cup fifth-round action Talking points ahead of the FA Cup fifth-round action

    The midweek FA Cup fifth round fixtures will give several Premier League clubs the opportunity to make up for significant setbacks over the weekend.

    Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag cannot afford another defeat after Saturday’s late drama against Fulham, while Chelsea must respond to Sunday’s Carabao Cup loss to Liverpool.

    Here, the PA news agency looks at the talking points around the key fixtures.

    United need a response

    Saturday’s stoppage-time home defeat to Fulham has put Manchester United under pressure going into Wednesday’s trip to Nottingham Forest. With a trip to the Etihad up next on Sunday, United need a positive result to avoid going into a derby amid another round of crisis talks at Old Trafford. With Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s buy-in now complete and an overhaul of football operations under way, the pressure on Erik ten Hag will only ramp up, and he cannot afford to see their only remaining hope of silverware this season come to an end.

    Liverpool to clear their hangovers

    There were emotional celebrations for Liverpool and their outgoing manager Jurgen Klopp after Virgil van Dijk’s header late in extra time won the Carabao Cup with a 1-0 win over Chelsea. Victory keeps Liverpool, top of the league by one point from Manchester City, alive in their bid for a quadruple as they remain among the favourites for both the FA Cup and the Europa League. Even with 120 minutes in their legs from Wembley, few would bet against them in a home tie against Championship Southampton.

    Chelsea to bounce back

    Mauricio Pochettino told his Chelsea players they needed to feel hurt by their Carabao Cup final loss, in which their performance in extra time prompted Gary Neville to call them “blue billion pound bottle jobs” on Sky Sports. Pochettino is yet to get a consistent tune out of his expensively-assembled squad, and Sunday’s defeat means the Argentinian has lost all three major finals he has reached while managing in England. The FA Cup offers an opportunity to put that right and their first opportunity to show a response comes on Wednesday, when they are favourites to see off Championship Leeds at Stamford Bridge.

    Guardiola looking forward to intense period

    As Manchester City return to Kenilworth Road to face Luton, where they had to come from behind to win 2-1 in the league in December, Pep Guardiola said he was relishing the decisive part of the season as his side look to replicate last season’s historic treble. Few would blame him given City’s enviable habit of reeling off long winning runs at this stage of a campaign. “Tomorrow is a final, like every game in Premier League and of course in Champions League,” Guardiola said. “The decisive part of the season is here ahead of us, in front of us, not far away, and we are going for it.”

    Newcastle seeking consistency

    Eddie Howe’s side slipped to ninth place with Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Arsenal, a mile off the sort of form that got them into the Champions League last term as a season best described as up and down continues. The best hope of returning to Europe next season may well lie with the FA Cup – a competition Newcastle are desperate to win to end their 55-year wait for major silverware. Although away from home, they should be firm favourites away to a Blackburn side still seeking a first win under new manager John Eustace. “This season can still be very special for us,” Howe said. “But we have to make it happen.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.