The unusually impressive demonstration of attacking football in Italy at this year’s European Championship continued until Austria interfered.
This did not stop the Italians, but it certainly made them look more victorious after three consecutive commendable victories in the group stage of Euro 2020.
“We knew there would be some potential banana skins in this game and we thought it could be even tougher than the quarterfinals,” said Italy coach Roberto Mancini. “Of course, Austria is not as good as the teams we will face in the next round, but they really make life difficult for you.”
Italy finally managed to break through the stubborn Austrian defense in extra time on Saturday at Wembley Stadium, winning 2-1 with goals from Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pesina to win a place in the quarterfinals.
“We knew that if we scored in the first half, it would have been a different game, but we failed and we had to go deeper. But the players really wanted to win at all costs, “said Mancini. “It may help that we have played a game like this.”
Italy have become an attacking juggling since Mancini took over after the team did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, although defender Leonardo Bonucci had said they were ready to forget the beautiful game to get a result.
Everything went well in the beginning against Austria, as Ciro Immobile hit the crossbar in the first half. But Italy also got lucky. The referee of the video assistant rejected an Austrian goal for offside and another whistle stopped a game that could have led to a penalty for Austria after a potential foul by Pesina.
For Mancini, however, Italy’s attack was still working well, his players simply did not let the ball into the net.
“I think we had 26 shots on goal, it’s not like we have two,” Mancini said. “We may not have been accurate enough, but I think when we had to fight, the players were exceptional.
“Despite the fact that Austria was considered a simple rival by many people, Austria does not lose easily and creates problems because it does not allow you to play football. They press, they defend themselves well. ”
With the victory, Italy set a team record of 31 consecutive games undefeated, as well as a record 12 consecutive victories. The Azzurri also set a world record of 1,168 minutes for not conceding a goal in international football. This ended late in extra time when Sasa Kalajdzic scored a consolation goal for Austria.
In the quarterfinals on Friday in Munich, Italy will play either the defending champion Portugal or the highest ranked Belgium. This means trying to stop either Cristiano Ronaldo or Romelu Lukaku.
“If possible,” Mancini said with a smile, “I’d avoid both.”