Italy head coach Roberto Mancini insisted the Azzurri are not done yet after silencing their doubters to reach the Euro 2020 final.

Not since 1968 have Italy won the European Championship but they are one victory away from adding to their solitary Euro crown following Tuesday's 4-2 penalty shoot-out triumph over Spain.

After the semi-final finished 1-1 at the end of extra time at Wembley, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved Alvaro Morata's spot-kick as Jorginho stepped up to convert the winning penalty in London.

Amid a national record 33-game unbeaten streak, Italy will face either England or Denmark in Sunday's decider at Wembley.

"We're delighted to have been able to provide this wonderful evening's entertainment to the Italian people and now we still have one game to go and we want to do exactly that if possible," Mancini – who has overseen a stunning transformation after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup – said during a news conference.

"We knew that it was going to be a very tough match because in terms of ball possession, Spain are the best around. They caused us problems, we had to dig in when we needed to. We tried to score and create opportunities when we could it was a very open match and of course there were some issues because we didn't have too much possession.

"However we wanted to make it into the final and we kept trying right until the end and as ever penalties are a lottery but I really want to take my hat off to Spain, they're a wonderful team."

Italy became the second team in the European Championship history after winners France at Euro 2000 to have five different players score two or more goals in a single tournament, following Federico Chiesa's 60th-minute opener, which was cancelled out by Morata with 10 minutes of regulation remaining.

 

The Azzurri's 12 goals at Euro 2020 is their joint-highest tally at a major tournament alongside the 2006, 1982 and 1934 World Cups. On each of those occasions, they left with the trophy.

Italy reached their 10th major final (World Cup and Euros), progressing to the decider of the European Championships for the fourth time (also six World Cup finals) – only Germany (14) have participated in more major finals amongst European nations.

Mancini said: "I must say that we are very happy about all of this, and I must thank the players because they have believed right from day one that we could produce something incredible. We haven't yet done everything we need to, there's still one step to go, and now we have to rest up because this really was very challenging.

"I did say to them before the match that this would be our hardest game of the competition, because when you go into your sixth match in such quick succession with all the travelling we've had to do, it does become very tiring. We certainly struggled with Spain's ball possession and had some issues, but we wanted to make the final."

"I think when you're involved in such an intense World Cup or European Championship, there always comes a game where you will have to dig in to be able to win a match and suffer, because it can't all be very smooth as our progress has been thus far going into the final four," he continued. "So we knew that it was going to be a very tough match, and we knew that it was going to be this game that would be the tough one. That's why I think the players, and everyone that has worked with us over the last three years deserve a lot of credit, because it wasn't easy by any means. Almost no one believed we could do it. And yet we are into the final. We are pleased for Italians everywhere that have been following us over the last few weeks."

Mancini added: "Everyone wants to do this. Occasionally it comes off, sometimes less so. But the players did want to do something different, they wanted to play a brand of football that people enjoyed and thus far they've managed to do exactly that. Difficult tasks are ultimately all the more enjoyable, and we are very happy to have made it into the final but we haven't achieved anything yet. So we still have to wait."

Euro 2020 is disappearing before our eyes, with the delayed tournament somehow already at the business end as we head into the final three matches.

It's been a thrill ride since the very beginning. From Italy making a sparkling start and Denmark rallying after Christian Eriksen's medical emergency, to France falling at the last 16 and England reaching the semi-finals of a second successive major tournament.

Italy, England, Spain and Denmark are all that's left as Euro 2020 enters its final week, and at this point it seems particularly tricky to call, particularly between first three.

But, given how integral statistics are to football these days, data can potentially give you edge when attempting to predict certain outcomes, and this is where Stats Perform's Artificial Intelligence team comes in as they've used Opta's extensive data reserves to quantify each semi-finalist's chances of winning tournament.

Every match has been run through the Stats Perform Euros Prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances and also takes into consideration the strength of each side's opponents.

The games are then simulated 40,000 times and analysed, providing the AI team with a percentage for each nation, showing the probability of them ultimately lifting the trophy at Wembley on July 11.

Without any further ado, let's take a look at the results…

Denmark (8.8 per cent chance of winning Euro 2020)

The fact Denmark even got out of their group was an achievement in itself as they became the first team to ever reach the knockout phase having lost their opening two matches. Yet, here we are.

The Danes are into the last four for the first time since winning the competition in 1992 and have really hit their stride since their two early defeats, with only Spain (12) outscoring Kasper Hjulmands' men until this point (11) – that haul is the most they've ever managed at a major tournament.

 

Denmark have projected a real sense of unity since Eriksen collapsed against Finland, and it's hard to believe they will fear anyone at this point.

Nevertheless, England should represent trickier opposition than the likes of Wales and the Czech Republic, which is perhaps reflected by the fact their 8.8 per cent chance of winning the title is the lowest of the four remaining teams.

But if standout performers such as Joakim Maehle, Simon Kjaer and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg continue to deliver the goods, who's to say they cannot emulate the 1992 vintage?

 

Spain (23.1 per cent)

Luis Enrique's Spain have been a fascinating watch at Euro 2020, partly because they somehow manage to flitter between exceptional and unrefined. Their erratic nature has become one of the sideshows of the tournament.

For example, only the Netherlands (53) have forced more high turnovers than Spain, while La Roja are the sole side to break the 100 barrier in terms of sequences of 10 or more passes (147). They only allow their opponents 8.3 passes on average in the defensive third before they initiate a defensive action, indicating they are the most intense pressers at the tournament, and their haul of 12 goals is more than anyone else.

 

Yet, their xGA (expected goals against) of 6.8 is comfortably the worst of the four teams left, and their xG underperformance of 3.6 is the biggest of all 24 teams. In short, these points suggest that not only have Spain been lucky to only concede five times, they are also the most wasteful team at Euro 2020.

 

That's obviously not helped by the fact Gerard Moreno (no goals from 3.3 xG) and Alvaro Morata (two goals from 3.95 xG) are among the three players with the worst xG underperformance records in the competition.

However, they've got this far and have still crafted plenty of goal-scoring opportunities, with their record of 25 big chances a tournament-high. If the penny drops with Spain's forwards and they start to convert in line with their xG, they could have real joy.

 

England (29.1 per cent)

It would be fair to say England's performances in the group stage, although not alarming, certainly didn't inspire a huge amount of confidence as they scored just two goals. But in the two games since, they have netted six times and attracted significant acclaim.

The fact they don't necessarily stand out in many specific team metrics (perhaps bar 10+ passing sequences – 98, second to Spain) is arguably partly down to how flexible Gareth Southgate's team have been in their approach to specific games. For example, their passes per defensive action (PPDA) dropped from 13.7 against Scotland to 25.9 against Germany, suggesting they were concerned about the German midfield playing through their press and instead sat back more in order to cut off passing routes.

Of course, adapting to your opponents is hardly revolutionary, most teams do it to a certain extent, but in a tournament where Spain and Italy have almost religiously stuck to principals and formations that govern their setups, England have chopped and changed.

 

It's clearly worked as well given the fact the Three Lions have equalled a major-tournament record of five successive clean sheets, while their 2.95 xGA (with no goals conceded) leads the way at Euro 2020.

With their defence seemingly watertight and Harry Kane finding some confidence with three goals in two games, England look in great shape. If our prediction model took into consideration that all of the remaining games are to be at Wembley, they'd likely be a bit closer to top spot.

 

Italy (38.9 per cent)

It seems like a long time ago now that Italy came into Euro 2020 as – some claimed at the time – unknown quantities. The common conception was that their 27-match unbeaten run coming into the tournament was misleading because most of the games were said to have been against sub-optimal opposition.

Well, they are now at 32 games unbeaten having won or drawn all of their five matches to this point at Euro 2020, setting a new national record in the process.

But, more than that, they've been utterly joyful to watch. They are relentless in attack, as highlighted by their tournament-leading shot (11) and goal-ending high turnovers (three), but also impressive at the back having only conceded one non-penalty goal.

 

Built around a solid core of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella that expertly blends craft and guile arguably unlike any team at Euro 2020, Roberto Mancini's turned Italy into a side that's not only been generally fun to watch, but also effective.

Spain represent a completely different challenge to any other side Italy have faced thus far, yet Luis Enrique's men have afforded their opponents plenty of chances. The Azzurri have been consistent throughout in attack, as demonstrated by their 11 goals from 10.3 xG. Without the one own goal in their favour, it would be 10 from 10.3 xG.

 

Italy have shown no major weaknesses en route to the semi-finals, and as such our model suggests it is they who have the greatest chance of success this week.

Italy and Spain are preparing to face one another for the 10th time at a major tournament, but Luis Enrique believes this is an Azzurri side like never before.

The two old rivals have been paired again in the semi-finals at Euro 2020, making this the most common fixture at the European Championship and World Cup combined.

This will be the seventh Euros clash, with the sides meeting at least once in four consecutive championships.

Spain eliminated Italy in 2008 and beat them in the final in 2012 but were toppled by the Azzurri four years later and now face a rejuvenated Roberto Mancini outfit.

"This Italy side isn't, perhaps, like the ones of years gone by – one that would sit back and wait to see what happened," Spain coach Luis Enrique said.

"This is an Italy side with great players who aim to have a lot of possession. This will be the first battle in the game: who dominates possession?

"I don't think both of us can dominate, so it'll be interesting to see who wins this tussle.

"Apart from having top players, Italy are a real team. They attack and defend as a unit, which is really similar to what we do.

"They also employ a high press, which it would be hard to imagine an Italian side from the past doing.

"Now they're strong in several ways of playing, meaning that the game will be really interesting. Both teams will have their moments."

Mancini, whose men are unbeaten in 32 and have won 13 in a row, was asked how Italy's Jorginho might match up against Sergio Busquets.

 

Among midfielders to have played 90 minutes or more at the tournament, Busquets ranks eighth for passes attempted per 90 (77.7) and Jorginho 10th (74.9).

"Certainly, they are among the best in their role," Mancini said.

"Busquets has been a fantastic player for many years. He has been around for longer, compared to Jorginho.

"Considering the way he is playing right now, however, Jorginho is certainly among the best, too."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Italy – Emerson

Leonardo Spinazzola has been one of the tournament's most impressive players at wing-back for Italy, creating seven chances from open play – including one assist – and having a championship-high six shot-ending carries. Emerson is likely to be the man asked to step in, having replaced Spinazzola against Belgium after he was taken off on a stretcher, and has big boots to fill.

Spain – Pedri

Busquets might have been the man at the centre of pre-match discussion, but Pedri has arguably been Spain's most impressive midfield performer at these finals. Against Switzerland, he created five chances and made five tackles. The Barcelona teenager has been involved in five more shot-ending sequences (35) than any other player at Euro 2020.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Italy have only beaten Spain twice in their past 14 meetings in all competitions (D7 L5), a 2-1 friendly win in 2011 and, most recently, a 2-0 victory at Euro 2016 in the last 16, with goals from Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle.
– The Azzurri have reached their 12th semi-final at a major tournament (EUROs/World Cup), with only Germany (20) appearing at the final four stage more often among all European sides. They have progressed from nine of the previous 11 semi-final ties, including each of the past four – most recently in this competition in 2012 when they eventually lost in the final to Spain (4-0).
– Italy have won all five of their matches at Euro 2020, the only side of the remaining final four with a 100 per cent record to date. Only at the World Cup (Italia 90) have they won more games at a single major tournament (six), while the only European side to win each of their first six games at a major tournament was the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup, when they suffered defeat to Spain in the final in South Africa.
– Spain have reached the semi-finals of the European Championships for the third time in the past four editions of the competition (failing to do so in 2016). Indeed, they have gone on to win the competition on each of the past two occasions they have reached the final four – in 2008 and 2012.
– After losing each of their first four matches at Wembley Stadium between 1955 and 1968, Spain have only suffered one defeat in their past five matches there (W2 D2). However, they were knocked out of the Euros in 1996 at Wembley, losing to hosts England on penalties.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini is expecting a tough test from an "extraordinary" Spain side in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.

The two teams go head to head at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday hoping to earn a place in the showpiece fixture of the tournament.

Spain have won just one of their five games en route to the last four in normal time – a group-stage victory over Slovakia that staved off the threat of an early exit.

But Italy have been altogether more convincing in winning each of their five outings without the need for extra time or penalties.

When it was put to him that many Italians believe their team is already in the final as a result of this strong form, Mancini replied: "I hope you get it right for once.

"It won't be easy. We need to put in a great performance. Spain are a top team, we are in the semi-finals, so it won't be easy.

"It will be a tough game, Spain are different from Belgium, but we will still face many difficulties.

 

"We suffered against Austria because of their aggressiveness and because it was the first game in the knockout stage.

"Spain have been extraordinary over the last few years, they have many young players and an excellent coach.

"Luis Enrique won the Champions League with Barcelona, but not only that. His Roma side played good football."

After scoring in Italy's opening two fixtures, Ciro Immobile has faced criticism for the two goalless games that have followed, particularly the quarter-final win over Belgium.

But Mancini has leapt to the defence of his striker, saying: "He is the Golden Boot, one of the best scorers of the last few years. 

"Sometimes the most criticised are the decisive ones during the Euros or the World Cup."

Roberto Mancini described his Italy players as "extraordinary" after they booked a Euro 2020 semi-final spot with a 2-1 win over Belgium in Munich on Friday. 

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

The Azzurri held on to extend their unbeaten run to 32 games, however, and will now play Spain at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday after Luis Enrique's side overcame Switzerland on penalties earlier in the day.

Italy have now reached the semi-finals of a major tournament for the 12th time – the only European nation to do so more is Germany (20 times).

The result also meant Mancini became only the second coach in European Championship history to win each of his first five matches in the competition finals after Michel Hidalgo, who won all five of his matches in charge of France at the 1984 edition.

"We deserved the victory," Mancini told RAI Sport. "The lads were extraordinary, and clearly we suffered in the last 10 minutes as we were really tired, but we could've scored more goals earlier.

"I didn't see 25 minutes of struggle at the start. There were chances at both ends, it was an open game. We only struggled in the last 10 minutes when Belgium started playing a long ball game.

"We had no minimum target. We just wanted to do our best. There are still two games to go, we'll see what happens.

"Let us enjoy this victory, then we can think about Spain. Congratulations to the lads, they did a great job."

 

Central to Italy's success was the colossal defensive display by Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. 

No player on the pitch made more clearances than Chiellini's six, while the pair helped reduce the Red Devils to just a solitary shot on target in the second period. 

Bonucci expects a tough game against Spain but urged his team-mates to be ready to go into battle. 

"Now we can keep dreaming with our feet on the ground," he said. "Spain are a great team, but we started this tournament with a dream in our hearts; let's keep it there until the end.

"There are two matches to go, the most difficult will be against Spain, who play similar to Belgium. They again looked as if they might not make it, but they got back on their feet, so it'll be a battle to the end."

The one sour note for Italy was the late injury suffered by Leonardo Spinazzola, with reports in Italy after the game suggesting he had ruptured his Achilles tendon.

"Leonardo had a great Euros, whoever replaces him will do just as well," Bonucci added.

After two engrossing games on Friday, we have our first Euro 2020 semi-finalists.

Spain ended a nine-year wait for a place in the final four of a major tournament, but they had to do it the hard way once again, with penalties needed to defeat Switzerland after a draw in Saint Petersburg.

Then came arguably the finest match of the tournament to date, Italy prevailing against Belgium to set a new record for consecutive wins in this competition and continue their remarkable form under Roberto Mancini.

Here are some of the key data takeaways from day one of the quarter-finals...

 

Switzerland 1-1 Spain (aet, 1-3 pens): Luis Enrique's men are the Euros shoot-out kings

Switzerland's previous three European Championship knockout games had gone to penalties (against Poland in 2016 and France this year), so perhaps we should have expected another shoot-out here.

Things certainly looked to be under Spain's control when Denis Zakaria, in for the suspended Granit Xhaka, scored the 10th own goal of Euro 2020 – that's more than were seen in the previous 15 championships combined (nine). Three of those have now gone in Spain's favour: they got two against Slovakia in the group stage.

Xherdan Shaqiri steered in Remo Freuler's pass to become his country's leading Euros goalscorer with four – he has as many goals (three) in his most recent three games as he did in his previous 31 – as Switzerland responded well in the second half. Then came a crucial moment: a heavy challenge from Freuler, and a red card flashed his way. It made the Atalanta midfielder the sixth person to be sent off at these finals and Switzerland only the third side in the competition's history to score an own goal and have a player dismissed in the same game, after Poland (against Slovakia this year) and Czechoslovakia against the Netherlands in 1976.

Still, Switzerland stood firm. Yann Sommer produced 10 saves, the most by a goalkeeper in a knockout match who did not suffer defeat during normal or extra time since Ivo Viktor for Czechoslovakia, again in 1976. Spain fired in 28 shots in total, with substitutes Dani Olmo and Gerard Moreno attempting six each. They have struck the most shots of anyone at these finals without scoring (Olmo 16, Gerard 15).

Yet Sommer's heroics were not enough in the shoot-out, Ruben Vargas' miss allowing Mikel Oyarzabal to ensure Spain progressed from penalties in a Euros match for the fourth time, more than any other nation. One of those came against Italy in 2008, and another against Portugal in 2012 – each time, La Roja went on to lift the trophy...


 

Belgium 1-2 Italy: Azzurri clinch Euros record against favourite foes

Italy stretched their record unbeaten run to 32 matches and 13 consecutive victories to see off Belgium and reach the semi-finals of a major tournament for the 12th time, a tally only bettered among European sides by Germany (20).

Perhaps more impressively, Italy have now won each of their past 15 games at the Euros (including qualifying), which is a competition record. Had Belgium claimed victory, they would have reached that tally themselves.

Roberto Martinez's side might be the top-ranked in the world, but they have now faced the Azzurri five times at the Euros and World Cup without winning, more than they have against any other side. They may have feared this result was coming.

Nicolo Barella opened the scoring with his sixth goal in 27 international games – only one fewer than he has managed in his past 116 club matches – before Lorenzo Insigne swept home a quite stunning second. Romelu Lukaku got a goal back after the impressive Jeremy Doku had become the first teenager to win a Euros spot-kick since Wayne Rooney in 2004.

Lukaku had a couple of chances for another in the second half, but he could not quite muster what would have been a 23rd goal in his most recent 19 competitive internationals, as Roberto Mancini celebrated becoming just the second coach in Euros history to win each of his first five games in the finals after Michel Hidalgo in 1984.

Italy's resolute defending in the second half was built on the partnership of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, whose guile helped the Azzurri over the line. This was something of a showcase for experienced stoppers: the five starting centre-backs – Chiellini (36), Bonucci (34), Thomas Vermaelen (35), Jan Vertonghen (34) and Toby Alderweireld (32) – averaged an age of 34 years and 234 days.

 

Pep Guardiola saluted "legend" Brian Kidd after the long-time Manchester City assistant manager called time on his career with the Premier League champions.

Kidd, who began his playing days at Manchester United in the 1960s, also appeared as a forward for City during his prime years.

He later became assistant boss to Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford from 1991 to 1998, operating at the Scot's side during a richly successful era in United's history.

Myriad roles, including stints as assistant with Leeds United and England and as manager of Blackburn Rovers, preceded a return to City in September 2009, initially in an academy-focused technical role.

Kidd has since served as first-team assistant under Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and most recently Guardiola, with City winning five Premier League titles, six EFL Cups and two FA Cups during this spell.

Guardiola said: "Brian Kidd is a legend in this country. Not only for what he has done here at Manchester City, but at other clubs throughout his incredible career.

"He has been so important to me during my time at the club, and I am sure to Roberto and Manuel also. He has so much respect in our dressing room, from myself, my coaches and most importantly the players.

"His experience has helped us to achieve something very special during his time here and I speak for everyone at Manchester City when I thank him for everything he has done."

Former England forward Kidd, 72, said on City's website: "It has been a privilege to be part of such an exciting chapter in this club's history.

"I can only thank Pep, Roberto and Manuel for their leadership during a period of huge change and challenges for everyone involved here. I hope to have offered them enough help and support along the way to have made a difference and played a small role in the different teams' successes.

"Having also played for Manchester City, it was very special to return and throughout the last 12 years I have felt the warmth of the leadership, the staff and of the fans throughout. I am incredibly grateful to all of them."

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."

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.

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."

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.

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."

Italy are in the hunt for two national records on Saturday, as they aim to overcome Austria in the Euro 2020 round of 16 at Wembley.

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

Roberto Mancini's team have won 11 games in a row without conceding a goal. Their clean sheet streak has lasted 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 also matches a record set under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

With a quarter-final tie against Belgium or holders Portugal in Munich up for grabs, Italy must first defeat Austria, who have not beaten the Azzurri in their last 13 meetings, a run dating back to December 1960.

Italy have also won four of their meetings with Austria at major tournaments.. However, they have won only two of their 13 matches played in London.

"Austria are a physical side, they keep the tempo high, but we're prepared, we are Italy and we go out there to win," defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo said in a pre-match news conference.

"I don't feel anxiety in the group, just the concentration and eagerness to get out there and play. The knockout stages begin here, this is the meat of the competition and we can't wait."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Italy – Marco Verratti

Mancini has been happy to rotate his squad, with 25 of 26 players – including back-up goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu – having appeared so far in the tournament.

Manuel Locatelli impressed in the opening two matches, but Marco Verratti turned in a star performance against Wales. The Paris Saint-Germain playmaker created a game-high five chances, led the way for passes completed (103 from 110 attempted), touches (136) and tackles (four), and Mancini has a decision to make in midfield.

Austria – David Alaba

Franco Foda's use of David Alaba has seemed strange at times in Euro 2020. Having been deployed in midfield for much of his international career, Alaba was utilised in a three-man defence in wins over North Macedonia and Ukraine, though played at the heart of the back three in a defeat to the Netherlands.

Regardless of his position, Alaba still created nine chances in the group stage, at least four more than any other Austria player. Four of these came in Austria’s 1-0 win against Ukraine last time out.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Seven of Italy's 14 knockout stage games in the European Championship have been drawn (W4 L3). Of these seven draws, they have won two and lost three by a penalty shootout, won once on a coin toss and the other went to a replay which they eventually won.
- This is Austria's maiden 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.
- Italy have won two of their 13 matches that were held in London (D5 L6), and are winless in five matches there (D3 L2) since beating England 1-0 in 1997 in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley, with Gianfranco Zola scoring the only goal.
- 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 (vs England). 
- Italy had 60 shots across their three games in the group stages, with their average of 20 shots-per-game their highest on record in a single edition of the European Championship (since 1980).

Page 7 of 9
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.