Goals from Nicolò Barella and Lorenzo Insigne paved Italy's way to the UEFA EURO 2020 semi-finals after Belgium came up just short in Munich.
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Lorenzo Insigne's splendid finish from the edge of the box made the difference as Italy edged out Belgium to win an enthralling UEFA EURO 2020 quarter-final and set up a semi-final blockbuster against Spain.Belgium vs Italy: as it happened, reaction
Match in brief
Leonardo Bonucci had an early finish ruled out for offside, but Belgium initially looked the sharper side, despite the absence of the injured Eden Hazard. Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku both tested Gianluigi Donnarumma before Nicolò Barella made the breakthrough on 31 minutes, wriggling through two challenges to fire a shot past Thibaut Courtois.
Italy's movement overwhelmed Belgium at times, and they were set to take a 2-0 lead into the break when Lorenzo Insigne bent a glorious shot past Courtois from the edge of the box. However, Giovanni Di Lorenzo's foul on Jeremy Doku gave the Red Devils a chance from the penalty spot, and Lukaku took it, sending a firm, low finish, straight down the middle.
That De Bruyne-Lukaku axis carried much of Belgium's threat, the big striker denied by some heroic defending from the hare-footed Leonardo Spinazzola on the hour. Even so, Italy's mighty energy levels meant they offered a threat from all over the park, pouring men forward in search of a killer third and buzzing around Belgium every time they threatened.
Chances kept coming in the second half, the best of them for Belgium. Thorgan Hazard could not quite turn a close-range tap-in on target, and Doku had a swashbuckling effort from distance, but the Red Devils were continually put off their final touch as Roberto Mancini's side harried them. Their final throw of the dice was to send goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois up for a last-gasp corner – to no avail.
Star of the Match: Lorenzo Insigne (Italy)
"He scored the decisive goal, played brilliant passes and showed footballing intelligence and technique of the highest level."
Willi Ruttensteiner, UEFA Technical Observer
Alyssa Saliou, Belgium reporter
Belgium showed character and strength, but Italy proved that tireless teamwork can cancel out individual quality. The Red Devils can be proud of how they have played at this tournament, and they came close to equalising more than once, but it didn't quite work out. Although the Belgian adventure ends here, it took a heroic effort to knock them out.
Paolo Menicucci, Italy reporter
They needed to go beyond their limits to beat a team like Belgium, and the Azzurri did just that. It was a great collective performance: from goalkeeper Donnarumma to veteran centre-backs Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, and from orchestra conductor Jorginho to goalscorers Barella and Insigne. Chapeau, 'mister' Mancini.
Roberto Mancini, Italy coach: "I don't think we suffered too much at any moment of the game. To beat a team like Belgium, you need a great performance from everybody and that is exactly what happened today."
Lorenzo Insigne, Italy forward: "I think every single player in the team played an incredible game tonight. I always try that shot, in games and in training. I'm happy it went in. It was a great goal but I repeat, we all won together tonight."
Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium midfielder: "I think we tried everything to win this match. They scored a fantastic goal, but the first one may have been a mistake on our part. They had more possession and the ball didn't go in for us, which is a shame. Getting eliminated is always a disappointment."
Thibaut Courtois, Belgium goalkeeper: "This hits hard, but we knew it was going to be a tough game. We had two opportunities, but their keeper made a good save and I think we gave the first goal away a bit too easily. It really could have gone either way, but Italy deserved to win here."
- Italy have set a new record for the longest winning run at the UEFA European Championship, qualifying included, their 15th consecutive victory taking them past opponents Belgium (14, 21/03/19 – 27/06/21) and Germany (14, 03/09/10 – 22/06/12).
- Nicolò Barella scored his sixth international goal; Italy have won all six matches in which he has scored.
- Three of Belgium's last five defeats at EURO final tournaments have now come at the hands of Italy.
- Italy have won their last 13 international matches (F36 A2) and are unbeaten in their last 32 internationals (W27 D5); their last defeat was in September 2018 (vs Portugal).
- Italy's five-match winning streak at EURO 2020 is their best ever sequence of consecutive wins at the finals and equals the record set by France (1984), the Netherlands (1988 to 1992) and the Czech Republic (2000 to 2004).
- Italy have scored 11 goals so far at EURO 2020 – the first time they have reached double figures at a single EURO.
- Lukaku scored his sixth EURO goal; no other Belgium player has scored more than two.
- Belgium have conceded two or more goals in nine EURO final tournament matches, and ended up losing all of those games.
- Belgium have lost only two of their last 28 international matches (W23 D3 L2). They were unbeaten in their most recent 13 international fixtures (W11 D2) going into this game.
- Italy have now won four and drawn one of their five previous matches against Belgium at major international final tournaments.
- Italy have scored the first goal in each of their last five international matches against Belgium; they have not gone 1-0 down in their last 17 international matches.
- Italy have not conceded more than once in any of their last 35 international matches.
Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Meunier (Chadli 69, Praet 73), Witsel, Tielemans (Mertens 69), T. Hazard; De Bruyne, Lukaku, Doku
Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola (Emerson 79); Barella, Jorginho, Verratti (Cristante 74); Chiesa (Tolói 90+1), Immobile (Belotti 74), Insigne (Berardi 79)
Italy – vs Spain in London, 6 July