December 1, 2021

Italy knocked out favorites Belgium to meet Spain in the Euro 2020 semis

2 min read

Italy broke Belgium’s 13-games unbeaten streak following one of the most thrilling games of Euro 2020 to seal a spot in the semis against Spain. Brilliant strikes from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne opened up a two-goal lead for the Azzurri, while Romelu Lukaku’s penalty at the stroke of halftime was not enough to advance the team in the next round of the competition.

“We deserved to win. The players were extraordinary,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini told a news portal. “It is clear that we suffered in the last 10 minutes because we were tired. They were good, we could have scored a few more goals.” It is learnt that Belgium and Italy were the only sides to win all 10 games in qualifying and the only teams along with the Netherlands to win every match in the group stage.

Without their talismans Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, the Euro ’98 winners of the tournament took advantage of the weakened top-ranked team. Barella gave Italy the lead in the 31st minute with a fine solo goal before Insigne netted a wonderful long-range strike into the top corner shortly before half-time. “Everyone, myself included, is really playing with a smile on their faces,” said Insigne

“We gave everything that we could. I couldn’t be prouder of my players and the staff,” Belgium coach Roberto Martínez said after the end of his top-ranked team’s 13-game unbeaten run. “Everything in this tournament has been fantastic and the application and dedication of everyone has been at the highest level.” Belgium entered as early favorites to win the tournament after beating current holders Portugal.

As Italy ended Belgium’s long run of unbeaten streak, the Azzuri extended its national record unbeaten run to 32 games. Mancini’s men will face Spain in the first semi-final. “We will now savor this moment. We’ll try and rest up because it will be another tough match,” Mancini said. Spain beat Switzerland 3-1 on penalties after their quarter-final tie in Saint Petersburg finished 1-1 at the end of extra time.

Elsewhere, England thrashed Ukraine 4-0 to reach the semifinals of the European championships for the first time in 25 years. England last reached the final of a major international tournament in 1966.This was the only third time England had won a knockout match in the Euros. “I suppose it’s still sinking in that it’s another semifinal — three in three years,” England coach Gareth Southgate said.

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