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Italy 2-1 Belgium: 5 hits and flops as Azzurri take home bronze medal after second-half flurry | UEFA Nations League third-place playoff

Italy take home the bronze medal.
Italy take home the bronze medal.
Sachin Bhat
ANALYST

In a repeat of their Euro 2020 quarter-final, Italy beat Belgium 2-1 to clinch third place in the 2021 UEFA Nations League. Goals from Nicolo Barella and Domenico Berardi were enough for the reigning European champions, despite Charles De Ketelaere pulling one back for the Red Devils late on.

The first half was an open affair, with both sides creating and missing chances galore. The Azzurri, in particular, were left frustrated by Berardi, Giacomo Raspadori and Federico Chiesa, all of whom spurned good opportunities to break the deadlock. But there was respite for them early on after the break, as Barella fired home the opener with a stunning effort in the 46th minute.

Another 20 minutes later, Chiesa won a penalty for the hosts after being fouled inside the area by Timothy Castagne. Berardi stepped up and made no mistake from the spot. Thibaut Courtois got a hand to his effort, but there was too much power in Berardi's effort, which nestled into the top corner of the net.

FT | #NationsLeagueItaly 2-1 Belgium An entertaining second sees both sides get on the scoresheet, but Italy prevail as the winners. Barella and Berardi were the scores for the Azzuri as they claim third-place. https://t.co/cffjmaT6RL

The game was essentially over for the Red Devils, who saw two more opportunities squandered by Toby Alderweireld and Mitchy Batshuayi after Italy's second goal. Ketelaere rounded off a quick corner by slotting through the legs of Gianluigi Donnarumma, but a comeback was not to be.

Italy eventually held on for the win to secure a third-place finish in the second edition of the competition. Belgium, meanwhile, were consigned to consecutive defeats in the Nations League. On that note, here are the five hits and flops from either team in the match:


Hit: Federico Chiesa (Italy)

Federico Chiesa impressed in another big game.
Federico Chiesa impressed in another big game.

Federico Chiesa has grown into a valuable player for Italy. He was their best and the most consistent performer at Euro 2020. Against Belgium on Sunday, he played a key role in helping the Azzurri to a podium finish in the Nations League with a top performance.

He came under fire in the first half for missing a good chance. The Juventus star blazed an open chance wide towards the end of the opening stanza, which could have given Italy the lead on the night.

Chiesa deserves to be in the Ballon D'or nominees more than Mason Mount.

But the 23-year-old improved after the break. He created a few good chances before winning a penalty which Berardi dispatched to double Italy's advantage, and effectively seal the contest.

Chiesa was adventurous and full of energy. He was a constant threat for the Red Devils with his fiery runs down the left flank, proving his worth to Roberto Mancini's side once again.


Flop: Mitchy Batshuayi (Belgium)

Mitchy Batshuayi couldn't produce anything meaningful against Italy.
Mitchy Batshuayi couldn't produce anything meaningful against Italy.

With no Romelu Lukaku around, this was a terrific opportunity for Mitchy Batshuayi to impress Roberto Martinez with a good performance and bolster his first-team chances. But the Besiktas forward squandered that by dropping a stinker.

Struggling to get involved in the match, Batshuayi cut an isolated figure up front for most of the game. He started brightly with a testing shot from range, but it flew into the stands. When presented with a clear opportunity after the break, he found the woodwork.

In the intervening period, there was little to write home about. He ended the game without mustering a single effort on target, and didn't really play a part in the build-ups either. Batshuayi completed only six passes in 90 minutes of action.

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Edited by Bhargav

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