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Belgium took on Italy in the second quarter-final of Euro 2020. Both the teams were coming off hard fought wins in the previous round, against Portugal and Austria respectively.

The opening 10 minutes saw both teams cancel each other out in terms of intent and tempo for the match. While Belgium was looking to get the ball to Lukaku, Italy were pressing high up the pitch themselves. That pressure almost paid off with a free-kick from the right-hand side being tucked home by Bonucci. However, Chiellini was adjudged to have been offside as the ball came in which ruled it out.



That frenetic start continued with the ball changing feet constantly. De Bruyne’s rasping shot after a good run was saved at full stretch by Donnarumma in goal. That was followed by another mazy charge by the midfielder who laid it off to Lukaku whose low shot was saved. Italy tried their own attacks but Insigne’s strike sailed over.



The Azzurri’s persistence finally bore fruits after Vertonghen’s attempt to clear the ball fell to Verratti. He in turn slipped the ball to Barella who danced his way into the box and fired his shot across Courtois for the game’s first goal. They kept on attacking and just before halftime, they doubled their lead. Insigne ran at the Belgian defence who kept backing off, before curling a finessed shot beyond Courtois’ dive.



With the game seemingly slipping away, Belgium were handed a lifeline. Doku ran beyond Di Lorenzo who bundled the winger over to give away a penalty. Lukaku tucked away the spot-kick to end the half 2-1 and giving the Red Devils a route back into the game.



Italy started the second half on the front-foot, keeping the pace up and looking for a third goal. Belgium to their credit, were also pushing forward in order to get back level. It was an even start, much like the first half with them canceling each other out. A fast counter attack saw De Bruyne slide the ball across goal for Lukaku, whose right footed shot bounced off Spinazzola on the line and behind.



The Azzurri were still the team looking more dangerous, with Spinazzola and Insigne having half chances to score. Belgium brought on Mertens and Chadli, with the latter’s cross just evading Lukaku from in front of goal. However, Chadli soon had to leave with an apparent thigh issue, replaced by Praet. Then it was Spinazzola who had to be stretchered off with a muscle injury and the rate of substitutions continued.



Belgium hogged the ball for the final minutes of the match and even created a few chances, but the ball would not fall in the perfect manner. Italy held on stoutly and a resilient defensive display combined with smart play with the ball saw them win the match to progress.

Here are the three key takeaways from the match:



Italy have been one of the standout teams of the tournament with their dominant displays. Roberto Mancini’s men have only conceded two goals, but it is their fluid, pressing forward play that has garnered praise. They charge at their opposition high up the pitch and make it difficult for defences to have time on the ball. With the amount of creative players at their disposal in the front six, where the goals will come from is anybody’s guess.



Against Belgium, they were swarming all over the Red Devils for much of the match. That led to the two fine goals scored by Barella and Insigne, which almost put them out of sight. A silly penalty given away by the Azzurri threatened to hamper the party, but their defence held steady in the second half to deny any goal scoring chances. Italy are still the favourites at this point of time for winning it all.



Roberto Martinez’s side did take the game to Belgium, especially in the final minutes of the game but the damage was done in the first half. A mistake by the skipper Vertonghen followed by a wonder goal by Insigne found them trailing by two goals. Though they did get a goal back, the lack of clear cut chances clearly hurt. The ball was either just over Lukaku’s head or sailing over or found an Italian player.



Donnarumma made a couple of fine stops and Spinazzola denied Lukaku the clearest shot at goal. Belgium made their changes, they dominated the final 12-15 minutes of the game but that equalizer just did not arrive. Doku looked one of the liveliest players on the pitch and De Bruyne had some beautiful touches but ultimately the class of the Italians just proved to be too much.



The Azzurri are becoming one of those teams who are always finding a way to win. Against Austria, it was two goals in extra-time and tonight, it was a resilient defensive display in the second half. Their attackers had done the job in the first half which ensured a slender lead to protect for Italy.

Mancini has drilled this side well who know how to get the job done in crunch time. No matter what Belgium threw at them, somebody was always there to block or clear it away. That togetherness across the pitch will be crucial in the upcoming semi-final against Spain.

Ratul Ghosh
His name means Red and a fan of devilish food, which equals to his favourite team being Manchester United. Can be found sleeping or in front of the TV otherwise. Hates waking up early but loves staying up late for football.

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