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.
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.
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.”