Italy's superb Euro 2020 campaign continued on Friday as they edged past Belgium 2-1 in Munich to set up a semi-final clash with Spain.

Superb strikes from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne put Italy two goals ahead by the 44th minute, but Belgium pulled one back before the interval courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku penalty. 

Lukaku went close in the second period, yet Roberto Mancini's side held firm in the first knockout meeting between the sides at a major tournament. 

The Azzurri will now play Spain at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday after Luis Enrique's side overcame Switzerland on penalties earlier in the day.

Italy thought they had opened the scoring in the 13th minute, but Leonardo Bonucci's bundled finish from Insigne's free-kick was ruled out for offside following a VAR review. 

Gianluigi Donnarumma denied Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku in quick succession midway through the first half, before the Azzurri went ahead in the 31st minute when Barella superbly lashed across Thibaut Courtois for his sixth international goal.

Italy doubled their advantage a minute before half-time when Insigne powered towards the penalty area and whipped into Courtois' top-left corner from 25 yards. 

Belgium halved the deficit in first-half stoppage time, however, Lukaku stroking home from the spot after Giovanni Di Lorenzo had pushed Jeremy Doku in the area. 

Inter striker Lukaku had a glorious opportunity to draw the Red Devils level on the hour mark, but his close-range effort hit Leonardo Spinazzola with Donnarumma beaten. 

Doku blazed over after a mazy run late on as Roberto Martinez’s side, who only had one shot on target in the second half, ultimately saw their Euro 2020 campaign end with a whimper.
 

 

Romelu Lukaku has found a home in Milan after firing Inter to their first Serie A title since 2009-10 and is a player reborn.

Now it's time to annoy the neighbours.

"Yes, I am staying," Lukaku told VTM at the start of this month, amid speculation over his future after the departure of head coach Antonio Conte.

"I feel good at Inter. "I've already had contact with [incoming head coach Simone Inzaghi]. Maybe I shouldn't say that yet … but it was a very positive conversation. There’s also the challenge of doing it again [winning the Scudetto]."

Those clubs reportedly keen on changing Lukaku's mind over just how settled he is at San Siro have been given fresh reasons to try over the past few weeks, with the 28-year-old in superb form to haul Belgium into a Euro 2020 quarter-final against Italy on Friday.

When the sides met at Euro 2016 and Italy prevailed 2-0 in a group-stage encounter, Lukaku was substituted after 73 minutes with the game on the line.

Consider the centre-forward's herculean efforts in single-handedly and tirelessly trying to drive Portugal back as Belgium hung on to a 1-0 win over the reigning champions in the last-16 and it is impossible not to imagine him sweat-soaked in the middle of the field when the final whistle goes this time.

 

The Conte factor

Conte was Italy head coach that day in Lyon and he took an unfancied Azzurri to a penalty shoot-out defeat against Germany in the quarter-finals

That subsequent Premier League was promptly won by Conte, freshly installed at Chelsea. He tried to bolster their title defence by signing Lukaku from Everton, but the player's decision to join Manchester United left the combustible tactician in a fury that never completely lifted before his exit as an FA Cup winner at the end of 2017-18.

Lukaku finished that campaign with what was then a career best 27 goals in all competitions for United, but the following season became a struggle as Jose Mourinho departed and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived.

It was time for pastures new in 2019-20 and there was a serendipity to Conte ending a 12-month sabbatical to take the reins at Inter, aiming to bring down the Juventus dynasty he launched almost a decade earlier.

He got his man this time and Lukaku has blossomed.

In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport before the St Petersburg quarter-final, Conte described the striker as a "force of nature" and he told L'Equipe: "Romelu, today, is one of the best strikers in the world.

"He always had immense physical and athletic qualities, but during the past two years together we have seen him grow even more in terms of presence on the pitch, teamwork, and composure in front of goal.”

Across all competitions in 2019-20, Lukaku scored 34 goals – the most prolific season of his career, which he backed up with 30 last time around. His expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes figure in 2020-21 was 0.76, another career best that indicates he is getting into better scoring positions and benefitting from a higher quality of chances. A shot conversion rate of 24 per cent at Inter also sees Lukaku breaking new ground.

 

The all-round development Conte alludes to is also clear. The 70 and 63 chances created in each of his Inter seasons again outstrip anything he has previously posted by that metric, yielding a personal best 11 assists last term.

Lukaku has also relocated his destructive capacity when it comes to running at defences with the ball, something that dwindled significantly at United.

Only in 2014-15 with Everton (145) did he attempt more dribbles than his 125 at Inter last season, while he never posted three figures at Old Trafford, slumping to a career-low 58 in 2018-19.

Familiar foes

Given Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard remain injury doubts, Lukaku's capacity to create for team-mates and himself might be crucial against an Italy defence that were breached for the first time in 19 hours and 28 minutes in their extra-time win over Austria.

Italy number one Gianluigi Donnarumma might not be too keen on the sight of the opposition number nine, given Lukaku's five goals against Milan in all competitions. Genoa (six) are the only Serie A side he has scored against more often.

Where Donnarumma might find reassurance is in the Juventus axis of Leonardo Bonucci and the fit-again Giorgio Chiellini in front of him.

 

While the veteran central-defensive pair's relative lack of pace means too many instances of the rampant, dribbling Lukaku that has re-emerged at Inter might spell disaster for Italy, the hitman's sparse record versus Juve suggests they know a thing or two about stopping him.

In five matches against the Old Lady for Inter, Lukaku has scored once from nine shots with an xG value of 1.4, a conversion rate of 11.1 per cent.

Contrast that with his record in the Derby della Madonnina, where his five goals have come from 24 shots (xG 5.2, 20.8 per cent conversion).

Such a record meant Lukaku was happy to proclaiming himself "King of Milano" after the Scudetto was secured, in a mocking dig at Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

If he can slay the country where he has enjoyed an incredible rebirth, he will take a giant step towards being crowned king of Europe.

Sven-Goran Eriksson heaped praise on "perfectionist" Roberto Mancini as the Italy head coach continues to oversee the stunning transformation of the Azzurri at Euro 2020.

Italy will face Belgium in the quarter-finals on Friday after setting a new national record by extending their unbeaten streak to 31 games thanks to a last-16 triumph over Austria.

A proud football country but a national team on their knees after failing to qualify for Russia 2018, their first World Cup absence since 1958, Mancini is the mastermind behind a drastic recovery following his appointment more than three years ago.

Banishing the nightmares of Gian Piero Ventura's dismal tenure, Italy have only conceded more than once in one of their past 18 matches at major tournaments, dating back to the beginning of Euro 2012.

They have conceded just 13 goals across these matches (eight clean sheets) with the only game where they did concede more than once coming in the 2012 European Championship final against Spain (a 4-0 defeat).

As a whole country unites behind 1968 European champions Italy, former Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio, England and Manchester City boss Eriksson hailed Mancini.

"Italy are playing very, very well," Eriksson, who coached Mancini at Sampdoria and Lazio in Serie A, told Stats Perform. "In the first two, or the first three games, they were the team that played the best football of all. Why? I don't know. However, they have many good players without any doubt, playing in top clubs, important ones.

"And then they have Mancini, Roberto. Clearly, he's been a manager for a long time now, he's been in Italy, he's been in England, in Russia I think, in Turkey as well. However, I knew, 25 years ago, that Mancini would have become a great manager. Because I've had him as a player for eight-nine years, and back then he already was like a manager.

 

"He was everything at Sampdoria: warehouse worker, cook, everything. And manager as well. Because he lives for football and it's always been like that for him. He is very curious – 'Why are we doing this during training?', 'Why don't we do this, or that?'. He would always come to me with questions about our training. And he was always talking about football.

"He's doing a great job, I understand it and I am very, very happy for him because he is also, in his job and I think in his life, a perfectionist. There are no half measures with Mancini. He is all or nothing. When he goes to training, he is all. When he changes club, like when he came with me from Sampdoria to Lazio, he was the same at Lazio. He was giving everything, and he wanted to win at any cost. He is a winning mind, a very winning one."

Eriksson added: "He is also a very generous man. For example, he would invite all the players and the whole coaching staff to the restaurant, once a week or every two weeks.

"Fantastic, fish-based, from Genova. And he would always pay, everything. He's a great man. I think very highly of him, and I am happy that he is doing very well."

Italy have reached the quarter-finals of the European Championship for a fourth consecutive tournament. Each of those previous three appearances at this stage have been decided by a penalty shoot-out, with the Italians eliminated by Spain in 2008 and Germany in 2016 while progressing past England in 2012.

Indeed, that accounts for three of a total of five European Championship penalty shoot-outs Italy have participated in – more than any other nation prior to the 2020 edition.

Italy have won all four of their matches at Euro 2020. They have never won five consecutive games at European Championship finals, while only twice previously have they won five or more in a row at any major tournament (World Cup and Euros), winning seven in a row at the World Cup from 1934 to 1938 and five in succession at the World Cup in 1990.

"I don't see a weak spot. Mancini, as perfectionist as he is, always wants to play good football. And maybe this is a weak spot," Eriksson said. "However, it's not actually. I like seeing the football played by Italy, because they attack, they play the ball pushing forward, they don't play like tic-tac, tic-tac. They get the ball, they steal the ball and then go. They lose the ball, they fall back, they defend, aggressive. This is a kind of football that is very nice to see.

"It's clear that Barcelona, Spain, play good football. However, I don't like it that much, because there are a thousand passes before they decide to attack for real. I know that Mancini is not like that. Mancini wants to attack. I hope that this style gets to the end."

Roberto Martinez will decide on Friday whether Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard will play any part in Belgium's Euro 2020 quarter-final tie with Italy.

De Bruyne was forced off early in the second half of Sunday's 1-0 last-16 win over Portugal with an ankle problem, while Hazard damaged his hamstring later in the same game.

Both players have travelled to Munich for Friday's showdown with Italy, though neither took part in Belgium's final training session ahead of the match.

Martinez admitted on Monday it was unlikely either De Bruyne or Hazard would be fully recovered in time, and the Spaniard still remains unsure if either player will make the squad.

"As you know they have not been able to train today," he said at Thursday's pre-match news conference. 

"There is still another 24 hours to go and they are positive they can recover. It is now a race against time to make a decision.

"We won't make a decision until the last minute. At the moment it's impossible to say whether they will get fit."

Asked if he is playing mind games by making Italy guess as to the pair's availability, Martinez said: "We are trying to get them fit. It has nothing to do with games or arrogance.

"We are in tournament mode. If they are not available tomorrow, we hope to have them available later."

Injury-plagued forward Hazard has struggled for fitness over the past couple of seasons and Martinez appeared to suggest the Real Madrid man has less of a chance of being fit.

"For Eden, it's difficult as it's a muscle injury," he said. "For Kevin, it's another type of injury. It's a decision for the medical staff. We will then make a decision when we hear back."

 

The winners of Friday's match at the Allianz Arena will face either Switzerland or Spain for a place in the final.

Italy needed extra time to overcome Austria in the last round, with that 2-1 victory extending the Azzurri's unbeaten run to a new national record of 31 matches.

Roberto Mancini's side have conceded more than once in only one of their last 18 games at major tournaments, conceding just 13 times in total across that sequence.

Martinez got the better of Mancini in the 2013 FA Cup final, with Wigan Athletic stunning Manchester City, but the Spaniard is full of praise for what his opposite number has achieved.

"Italy are a great team," he said. "They press with many players and are very dynamic, with many players able to counter-attack.

"If I have to mention one quality in particular it is the synchrony. That is credit to Mancini and that is why they are unbeaten for so long.

"Italy and Belgium are statistically the best teams in the European Championship, and the teams that have won the most games since qualifying.

"It's a pity we're meeting them already, just like we faced Portugal too early."

Against no side have Belgium played more games at major tournaments without winning than Italy (four, level with France and Germany).

The only European nations Italy have faced more often at the same tournaments without losing, meanwhile, are Germany (nine) and Austria (five).

However, the Red Devils have won seven of their last eight matches at the European Championships – the exception being a 3-1 loss to Wales in the 2016 quarter-finals.

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini hopes Belgium duo Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard will feature in Friday's Euro 2020 quarter-final clash despite Red Devils boss Roberto Martinez suggesting they will not be fit. 

De Bruyne was forced off early in the second half during his side's 1-0 win over Portugal on Sunday.

The Manchester City midfielder was seen with ice on his left ankle while watching on from the sideline, where he was later joined by Hazard after the Real Madrid winger damaged his hamstring late in proceedings.

Martinez revealed on the eve of the game – the first ever between Italy and Belgium in a knockout tie at a major tournament – that it is "impossible" to predict whether the pair will be available to play a part in Munich.

Mancini, however, said the best players deserve to play in the biggest games and would have no issues should they recover in time. 

"It's always nice for the fans to see all the best players on the pitch; that's what makes football special," he told a media conference.

"We face the best team in Europe along with France, maybe the best in the world. They are on top of the ranking, but we'll try to win. 

"I respect Belgium, but we'll need to play as we know, we are aware of our qualities. Belgium are preparing for an important game and the same goes for us."

 

So impressive in the group stage, the Azzurri had to be patient before landing the decisive blows against Austria in a last-16 clash at Wembley that went to extra time.

Mancini's side prevailed 2-1 in the end, setting a new national record in the process as they extended their unbeaten run to 31 games.

"We knew Austria could create trouble for us and we knew it could have been the most difficult game because it was the first one in the knockout phase," Mancini explained.

"Every game can make you stronger if you improve. We suffered against Austria, but we had 27 shots. It was a tough game, but we deserved to win. There are no easy games, that's what the Euros are teaching us."

This is Italy's fourth consecutive appearance in the quarter-final stage of the European Championship.

Each of those previous three appearances have been decided by a penalty shootout, with the Italians eliminated by Spain in 2008 and Germany in 2016 while progressing past England in 2012.

Indeed, that accounts for three of Italy's five European Championship penalty shootouts – more than any other nation prior to the 2020 edition.

Italy and Belgium will meet in a knockout tie for the first time at a major tournament on Friday, with two European heavyweights ready to fight it out for a semi-final spot at Euro 2020.

So impressive in the group stage, the Azzurri had to be patient before landing the decisive blows against Austria in a last-16 clash at Wembley that went to extra time.

Roberto Mancini's side prevailed 2-1 in the end, setting a new national record in the process as they extended their unbeaten run to 31 games.

That streak now faces a serious test against Belgium, who knocked out reigning champions Portugal in the previous round. Victory did come at a cost, however, as both Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard suffered injuries in the 1-0 result.

While the Italy game may come too soon for the pair, Roberto Martinez retains hope they will be able to feature again, provided, of course, their team-mates find a way to get past Italy.

"I think they are the team that have played the best games," Belgium forward Dries Mertens – who plays his club football for Napoli in Serie A – said ahead of the fixture against some familiar faces.

"For sure the first three games they played very good football and they were very combative, it was beautiful to see them play."

Italy have reached the quarter-final stage for a fourth consecutive edition, and each of those previous three last-eight appearances at European Championships have been decided by a penalty shoot-out.

Considering the respective form of both nations – Belgium have won seven of their previous eight outings, going back to Euro 2016 – it would be no surprise to see the eye-catching battle go the distance in Munich.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Belgium - Thorgan Hazard

There will still be a need for Italy to be on Hazard watch at the Allianz Arena: Thorgan – younger brother of the injured Eden – has been directly involved in six goals in his past seven starts for his country (four goals, two assists) and has scored in his previous two appearances at Euro 2020.

The Borussia Dortmund man could become just the second player for Belgium to score in three consecutive major tournament appearances, matching the feat of Marc Wilmots at the 2002 World Cup.

Italy - Matteo Pessina

Atalanta midfielder Pessina has scored in successive games, but no player has ever managed to do so for three in a row when representing Italy at a European Championship campaign.

Christian Vieri has done so at a World Cup previously, enjoying a four-game scoring streak at the 1998 edition. Italy exited at the quarter-final stage on penalties that year to eventual winners France.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Against no side have Belgium played more games at major tournaments without winning than Italy (4, level with France and Germany). The only European nations Italy have faced more often without losing are Germany (9) and Austria (5).

- Italy have only conceded more than once in one of their past 18 matches at major tournaments, dating back to the beginning of Euro 2012. They have conceded just 13 goals across these matches (eight clean sheets) with the only game where they did concede more than once coming in the 2012 European Championship final against Spain (a 4-0 defeat).

- Belgium have won seven of their last eight matches at European Championships – the exception in this run was at the quarter-final stage of Euro 2016, when they lost 3-1 to Wales.

- Italy have never won five consecutive games at a European Championship, while only twice previously have they won five or more in a row at any major tournament. They managed seven in succession at the World Cup from 1934 to 1938, then five on the bounce at the 1990 edition.

- Belgium eliminated reigning champions Portugal in the round of 16 – four of the five nations to win a knockout stage tie (including finals) against the reigning European champions have gone on to win the trophy, with the exception being Italy at Euro 2016.

- Since Roberto Martinez's first game in charge in September 2016, Belgium have won more games (47) and scored more goals (175) than any other European nation in all competitions.

Arsenal have made an offer for Italy international Manuel Locatelli and lead the race for his signature, claims Sassuolo director Giovanni Carnevali.

Sassuolo midfielder Locatelli, 23, has impressed at Euro 2020, scoring two goals for Italy in the 3-0 win over Switzerland and helping the Azzurri reach the quarterfinals by stepping up during Marco Verratti's injury-enforced absence.

Locatelli's performances, combined with a strong 2020-21 campaign for Sassuolo who finished eighth in Serie A, have garnered attention with Carnevali confirming strong interest from Arsenal and Juventus.

"Juventus are the only Italian club we talked to about Locatelli," Carnevali told Sky Sport Italia. "They have interest, we spoke to [director Federico] Cherubini last week.

"We have not yet discussed the financial details, but we have a good rapport and will talk it over soon.

"It’s true that there are foreign clubs interested, including Arsenal, and so far they are ahead and are the only side realistically to have made an important proposal for Manuel."

Spanish pair Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have also been linked with Locatelli, who flirted with a switch to Juventus last off-season.

Carnevali added: "We are trying to leave the lad calm, so I haven’t spoken to him or his agents yet. We can think about Locatelli’s future but above all we care about his present and that means Italy doing well at the Euros,"

It is expected that Sassuolo will demand €50m for the former Milan youth product, who joined Sassuolo on loan in 2018 before signing permanently in 2019.

Antonio Conte says Italy must be wary of "force of nature" Romelu Lukaku but is backing Roberto Mancini to mastermind a Euro 2020 victory over Belgium.

The Azzurri reached the quarter-finals by extending their unbeaten run to a national record 31 matches with a tense 2-1 victory over Austria after extra time at Wembley.

Belgium dethroned holders Portugal to set up a showdown with Italy in Munich on Friday, Thorgan Hazard scoring the only goal.

Mancini's side have won 12 consecutive matches, while the Red Devils have gone 13 without defeat ahead of a blockbuster battle in Bavaria.

Conte believes Italy must find a way to keep Lukaku quiet, with the striker having fired Conte's Inter side to Serie A glory with 24 goals last season and struck three times in four Euro 2020 games.

But the former Italy boss thinks the Azzurri can delivier a knockout blow to Belgium, who have injury concerns over midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne and captain Eden Hazard.

Conte, who left Inter at the end of the 2020-21 season, told the Gazzetta dello Sport: "As well as the psychological aspect and the attitude: that indispensable mix of grit, concentration, desire to help, the ability to suffer and not give up.

"Each player must put themselves at the service of the group. There are three qualities that differentiate top athletes from normal athletes in modern football: strength, speed and endurance.

"I'm not even talking about the technical qualities that I take for granted. To all this, which is the basis for achieving important results, our national team has shown that it knows how to add its own expression and an idea of ​​the game that other teams have shown less, relying more on important individuals, capable of deciding a game on their own or almost. 

"This is what I have also seen some great national teams do, given as favourites. Our next opponent Belgium is a strong team individually and collectively.

"Lukaku is a force of nature, he works alone, but I discover hot water in saying that the presence or absence of De Bruyne and Hazard on Friday can change the balance.

 

"I have a lot of respect for the coach [Roberto] Martinez for the work he has done in recent ears, but the performance against Portugal did not fully convince me both in the attacking phase and in the defensive phase.

"But Mancini does not need advice, on a tactical level the Italian technicians know how to prepare the game like few others, Roberto [Mancini] will field a team that will be able to manage every situation."

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini has hailed the impact of his substitutes who "changed the game" as the Azzurri won 2-1 over Austria in extra-time in their Euro 2020 last-16 clash.

Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina came off the bench to both score in extra-time, while 67th-minute substitute Manuel Locatelli helped turn the game too.

Mancini had weighed up starting Locatelli ahead of Marco Verratti, whom he replaced, and delighted in his subs' impact and their potential roles moving forward, with a quarter-final date confirmed.

"They were brilliant and that can be a huge advantage for us," Mancini said.

"The fact we have players that can step in and change the game because they are fresh, it was an excellent performance.

"The players wanted to win at all costs and with the subs they did a good job and we were able to win."

The win set a new national record as they extended their unbeaten run to 31 games, surpassing the 30-game streak posted under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

However, Sasa Kalajdzic's 114th-minute header ended their 11-game run without conceding a goal, dating back to October 2020, ending a run of 19 hours and 28 minutes without conceding.

Mancini insisted Italy did not under-estimate Austria, claiming the match would be tougher than their quarter-final against either Belgium or Portugal on Friday.

"We knew there would be potential banana skins in this match and we thought it would be tougher than the quarter-final, they are not as good as teams in quarter-final, but they really make life tough for you, they cause problems," he said.

"We knew we scored in the first half it would have been a different game. We said it would be a match we would have to struggle through to get the win. We had to dig deep."

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma said their quarter-final opponent held no fears for the Azzurri.

"It doesn’t matter who we face, we have to keep playing our football and keep going," he said.

"The emotions are extraordinary, we can’t wait until we can play in a packed stadium in front of these fans."

The opening two fixtures of the last-16 stage of Euro 2020 played out on Saturday with Denmark and Italy triumphing in contrasting matches.

There were seven goals scored across the two fixtures with Denmark easing to a 4-0 victory Wales thanks to two goals from Kasper Dolberg to become the first team to reach the quarter-finals.

Italy followed them into the last eight later on the day, although their progress was much more hard fought via a 2-1 extra-time win over a spirited Austria at Wembley courtesy of substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina.

Stats Perform reflects on a day of youthful confidence and omens for later in the tournament.


Wales 0-4 Denmark: A landmark double for Dolberg 

Denmark have won each of their last four competitive meetings with Wales in a run stretching back to June 1999, and they swaggered to victory again in the first meeting between the sides in a major tournament.

The Danes showed their prowess from long range when Dolberg put them ahead with a curling shot from distance - and they have netted more goals from outside the penalty area (three) than any other side at Euro 2020. Indeed, since 1980 only France (five in 1984) and Belgium (four in 2016) have scored more from distance in a single edition of the competition.

Since the start of 2019, only Christian Eriksen (11) has scored more goals in all competitions for Denmark than the eight Dolberg has so far. At the age of 23 years 263 days, Nice striker Dolberg became the youngest player to score for Denmark in the knockout stages of the European Championship.

Dolberg also became the second Denmark player to score two goals in a knockout game at a major tournament (World Cup and Euros) after Henrik Larsen against the Netherlands at Euro 1992 when the Danes went on to win the tournament.

Another youngster making his mark for Denmark was Mikkel Damsgaard, who, at 20 years and 358 days, became the youngest player to assist a goal in Euros knock-out game since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2004 against the Netherlands.

It was a miserable game for Wales who suffered their biggest defeat in a competitive match since a 6-1 thrashing by Serbia in September 2012. Wales had Harry Wilson sent off in Amsterdam and, following the dismissal of Ethan Ampadu against Italy, became the first team to receive two red cards in a single edition of the European Championship since Russia and Switzerland in 2004.

 

Italy 2-1 Austria: Mancini's side finally let one in

Italy have won four consecutive games at the European Championship for the second time, which bodes well for them going far, having previously done so at Euro 2000 when they ended up as losing finalists.

Chiesa and Pessina gave them a 2-1 win over Austria, and it was the was just the second time two different substitutes have scored in a European Championship game for Italy after Alessandro Altobelli and Luigi De Agostini did so in 1988 against Denmark.

Sasa Kalajdzic's goal for Austria was the first Roberto Mancini's side have let in since October 2020, ending a run of 19 hours and 28 minutes without conceding for the Italians.

Although Austria have now lost all five of their meetings with Italy in major international tournaments (World Cup and Euros), netting just two goals in these matches.

This was Italy’s eighth game at the European Championship to go to extra time, more than any other side in the history of the competition. Their two goals were their first goals in the additional 30 minutes.

Despite playing 157 minutes at Euro 2020 so far, Marco Verratti has created more chances than any other player for Italy (nine).

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.

Italy set a new national record as they extended their unbeaten run to 31 games with a 2-1 triumph over Austria at Euro 2020.

Extra-time goals from substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina at Wembley Stadium made sure the in-form Azzurri progressed through to the quarter-finals of the tournament, where they will play either Belgium or Portugal in Munich.

Roberto Mancini has not seen his team lose since a 1-0 Nations League reverse against Portugal back in September 2018.

Their current run is now the longest in Italy's long and illustrious history, surpassing the 30-game streak posted under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

Mancini was appointed to the job after the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup under Gian Piero Ventura. 

Italy have been victorious in 27 of their 36 games under the former Inter and Manchester City boss (D7 L2). His 75.6 per cent win ratio is the highest of any manager to have spent at least 10 games in charge of the national team.

They won all three of their group fixtures for just the fourth time in European Championships and World Cups, defeating Turkey, Switzerland and Wales on home soil in Rome without conceding a goal.

Sasa Kalajdzic's goal for Austria in the 114th minute was the first Italy have let in since October 2020, ending a run of 1,168 minutes without conceding.

 

Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina scored in extra time as Italy beat Austria 2-1 to move into the Euro 2020 quarter-finals. 

The win set a new national record as they extended their unbeaten run to 31 games, surpassing the 30-game streak posted under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

Marko Arnautovic saw an effort ruled out by VAR in the second half as Austria threatened to cause an upset, but substitutes Chiesa and Pessina booked the Azzurri's last-eight spot with clinical finishes in the first half of extra time, although Sasa Kalajdzic did set up a frantic finish with his 114th-minute effort. 

Roberto Mancini's side will face the winner of Sunday's clash between Portugal and Belgium in Munich on Friday.

Italy started strongly and had seven shots before the half-hour mark, Daniel Bachmann keeping out Nicolo Barella with his feet in what was the Azzurri's best chance in that period. 

At the other end, Arnautovic blazed over from a promising position, while Ciro Immobile crashed a superb effort off Bachmann's right-hand post from 25 yards. 

Bachmann pawed away a low effort from Leonardo Spinazzola shortly before the interval as Italy ultimately failed to make their first-half dominance count.

Austria improved dramatically after the break and thought they had gone ahead midway through the second half, but Arnautovic's deft header was ruled out by VAR for offside. 

Franco Foda's side might have thought they would have the edge in extra time given Italy's lethargy for much of the second period, yet it was the Azzurri who struck the decisive blow. 

Chiesa controlled Spinazzola's cross in the 95th minute, cut inside Konrad Laimer and lashed a fine half-volley past Bachmann. 

The Austria goalkeeper did well to keep out Lorenzo Insigne's free-kick soon after, but there was little he could do to deny Pessina in the 105th minute, the Atalanta midfielder powering past him from six yards after skipping past Martin Hinteregger.

Kalajdzic set up a grandstand finish with a clever near-post header from Louis Schaub's corner – ending Italy's run of 1,168 minutes without conceding – yet Mancini’s men held firm to keep their Euro 2020 dreams alive. 

Austria star Marko Arnautovic said Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are not from this world and are on this planet to "take all the trophies with them".

Ronaldo and Messi are regarded as two of the greatest footballers of all-time following their exploits for club and country.

Portugal and Juventus superstar Ronaldo – a five-time Ballon d'Or winner with 32 major trophies – matched Ali Daei's international men's record for most goals (109) following his two-goal haul in the 2-2 draw with France at Euro 2020.

Record six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has won a club-record 34 trophies at Barcelona, while he equalled Javier Mascherano for the most Argentina appearances in their 1-0 Copa America victory over Paraguay.

As Austria prepare for Saturday's Euro 2020 last-16 showdown against Italy, Arnautovic hailed Ronaldo and Messi.

"When you mention [Cristiano Ronaldo's] name, we aren't talking about a human being," Arnautovic said. "That’s it. What am I supposed to say about it?

"There are two players who are not from this world. They are from far away and just came here for a while to succeed in every league and take all the trophies with them. And then they are leaving again.

"Those are Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi."

This will be Austria's first ever appearance in the knockout stages of the European Championship, and their first in the knockout stage of any major tournament since the 1954 World Cup, when they reached the semi-final.

Austria have lost four of their six games in London in all competitions (W1 D1), with this their first visit to the English capital since a 7-0 friendly defeat in September 1973 (against England).

The nation's only previous game in London which was not against England came in the 1948 Olympic games, a 3-0 loss to Sweden.

David Alaba created nine chances in the group stages, at least four more than any other Austria player. Four of these came in Austria's 1-0 win against Ukraine last time out.

Roberto Mancini has urged his Italy players to "have fun" as they bid to set two national records in their Euro 2020 last-16 clash with Austria at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. 

The Azzurri shone in the group stage, scoring seven goals – the most they have scored across their first three games of a major tournament since 1998 – in wins over Turkey, Switzerland and Wales.

Mancini's team have won 11 games in a row without conceding a goal, their clean sheet streak lasting 17 hours and 35 minutes since Donny van de Beek scored for the Netherlands in October 2020.

One more clean sheet will see them equal their record for consecutive games without conceding (12), set between 1972 and 1974, while also surpassing the previous total of minutes (1,143) without letting a goal in.

Their run of 30 games without a defeat, meanwhile, also matches a record set under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

A quarter-final tie against Belgium or holders Portugal in Munich awaits should they overcome Austria, and Mancini wants his side to enjoy the occasion at one of the world's most iconic stadiums. 

"I've enjoyed my time as Italy coach and I would like to continue doing it. I thank the players, as they allowed me to have fun with this experience too," Mancini told a media conference. 

"Playing at Wembley should always be a pleasure. There are players in this squad who have never experienced it and they ought to relish this opportunity in a beautiful stadium.

"When you play football, it's because you want to do it in stadiums like this. I think this team needs to keep feeding the joy and at the same time respect a temple of football like this. I am sure the lads will play well tomorrow."

Austria have not beaten the Azzurri in their last 13 meetings, a run dating back to December 1960.

Mancini, though, has warned his players to expect a tough game against a side who are making an appearance in the knockout stages of a major competition for the first time since the 1954 World Cup. 

"We need a great performance, as Austria have quality," he added. "They are aggressive and we cannot get anything wrong.

"That's the beauty of these tournaments, you have to win and there's no other option. We have to continue playing our football, hopefully for another four games at Euro 2020."

Austria captain David Alaba, meanwhile, said it is a "dream come true" for his country to take on Italy in the knockout stages.

Alaba – who joined Real Madrid on a free transfer in May after leaving Bayern Munich – created nine chances in the group stage, at least four more than any other Austria player. 

"It is a special game and we want to do well," he said.

"I've won at Wembley, so I have very good memories of this stadium. I expect a wonderful game and I remember the atmosphere from the Champions League final, but tomorrow will be special for Austria and we can't wait to get out there.

"I don't need to tell the lads how to treat certain situations. Some might ask me for advice, but we have others who have played at this level and I am not concerned.

"This is a dream come true for Austria to play a round of 16 match in a Euros against Italy."

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