Very few teams have made an impression at Euro 2020 like Italy. The Azzurri came into the tournament on an incredible run.
Unbeaten in almost three years, Roberto Mancini’s side carried their form into the European Championships and made light work of their group opponents. Paired in Group A with Turkey, Wales and Switzerland, Italy dominated them all to qualify for the knockout rounds of Euro 2020.
On Saturday, the Azzurri took one step further by beating Austria in a tough last-16 tie. It wasn’t a straightforward victory, but the Italians dug deep to get the better of their opponents.
Italy book place in quarter-final
Italy were the favourites once it emerged that they were going to face Austria in the first knockout round. However, Italy struggled to impress on Saturday.
Despite starting on the ascendency, the Azzuri got frustrated by the resilience and resolute defending of their opponents. In 90 minutes, Mancini’s side couldn’t find a breakthrough and needed extra time to score. Ultimately, it was Italy’s superior bench strength that got the job done for them.
With the Austria players tiring out after working their socks off for over 100 minutes, substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina struck in the first half of extra-time to give Italy a two-goal cushion.
Despite Sasa Kalajdzic scoring for Austria to reduce the deficit with six minutes remaining, the Azzurri held on to record a 2-1 win to reach the quarter-final.
Azzurri's struggles in first major test raise questions
Italy may have advanced to the next stage of Euro 2020, but it’s fair to say that their clash against Austria was their first real test in the tournament.
The group stage was a walk in the park for Mancini’s side, but they were rattled by David Alaba and co. For larger parts of the match, Austria played well against Italy and weren’t threatened much.
The Azzurri were rampant in their previous games. But the way they played in the last 16 raised questions about a lot of things, one of them being their ability to overcome adversity.
They’ve rarely been challenged, and when an opponent finally stood up to them, Italy struggled to overcome the challenge.
“We frankly should’ve scored the two goals a lot earlier and not gone to extra time, and we got tired as it wore on, but we won deservedly,” Mancini said after the game, as quoted by Football Italia. "The players who came off the bench had the right mentality and stepped straight into the match to change the game. Those who came on were extraordinary after those who came off had already given everything they had."
“I knew this was going to be tough, probably tougher than the quarter-final. Games can take the wrong bent, but we played well and deserved it. This test can do us good; we had to show a strong mentality.”
Indeed, Italy had to show a strong mentality to win against Austria. But the story could’ve been different had Marko Arnautovic’s goal not been ruled out for offside. That was a close shave for Italy, and Roberto Mancini knows it well.
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