Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne found the back of the net as Italy beat Belgium 2-1 on Friday to qualify for the semi-finals of the UEFA Euro 2020.
In what was a fast-paced, engaging affair from the off, Italy kept Belgium pinned back in their own half, but the Red Devils looked a major threat each time they countered. Leonardo Bonucci seemed to have put the Azzurri in front early in the contest only to see the strike chalked off for offside, while Gianluigi Donnarumma made two brilliant stops to deny Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku at the other end.
Italy’s pressure eventually paid off as Nicolo Barella scored a brilliant goal after some silky footwork inside the box at the half-hour mark. Roberto Mancini’s men were relentless in their push for a second goal, which came in the 44th minute through a stunning curler from outside the box by Lorenzo Insigne. However, Lukaku was able to pull a goal back for Belgium in stoppage time from the penalty spot after Jeremy Doku was fouled.
The second half saw Italy keep pressing in search of another goal as Leonardo Spinazzola and Insigne came close, while the former made a huge goalline block to deny Lukaku an equaliser. Doku came close late on after he went on a mazy run past three Italian defenders but couldn’t find the leveller as Italy held on for a well-deserved win, going through to the semi-finals while sending the world’s best-ranked team packing.
Here are our player ratings for the Belgium and Italy stars after what was a scintillating affair played out at the Allianz Arena on Friday night.
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
Not a lot he could have done about either of the goals that Italy scored on the night. Made one or two routine stops but nothing apart from that.
Toby Alderweireld: 5/10
Needed to step up and try to stop Insigne from shooting but shockingly decided to step back and give the Italian room and he did not miss, making it 2-0. At bay throughout dealing with the Insigne – Spinazzola combination.
Thomas Vermaelen: 5/10
After a strong performance against Portugal last time out, this was back to reality for the former Arsenal captain as he found it hard to cope with Italy’s frontline. Guilty of not doing enough to stop Barella from shooting for the opening goal. Never looked comfortable.
Jan Vertonghen: 4/10
Could not handle the pace and movement of Federico Chiesa on the right. Botched clearance led to the opening goal. Not good enough from the seasoned campaigner.
Thomas Meunier: 4/10
Did little of note going forward, hardly an asset defensively as Spinazzola and Insigne ran rings around him on the flank. Left Alderweireld with too much to do.
Youri Tielemans: 5/10
Couldn’t handle the intensity and the pressing of the Italian midfield. Pinned back deep in his own half from where he could hardly impact the proceedings. Needed to be stronger in the lead-up to Insigne’s goal.
Axel Witsel: 5/10
Like Tielemans, the veteran midfielder also struggled to get a foot in against the might of the Italian midfield unit. Wasn’t able to screen the defence effectively, couldn’t use the ball properly either. Underwhelming.
Thorgan Hazard: 5/10
The match-winner in the Round of 16, Thorgan Hazard found it tough to get going with Belgium not always able to get him involved. Delivered some woeful balls when he did get into decent positions.
Kevin De Bruyne: 6/10
Passed fit to start after picking up an injury in the last game, De Bruyne looked good in bursts, especially in the early exchanges when Belgium carried a threat on the break. Forced a fine save from Donnarumma and created a chance for Lukaku. Influence waned with time, though.
Jeremy Doku: 7.5/10
Jérémy Doku completed eight take-ons against Italy, the most by any player in single game so far at #EURO2020
Just 19 years old. ? pic.twitter.com/bD1QdMQFs2
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 2, 2021
Undoubtedly the brightest player on the pitch for Belgium on the night, the youngster caused all sorts of problems on the left wing with his directness and speed. Won the penalty from which Lukaku scored, and almost scored a goal of the tournament contender as he went on a slaloming run, only to shoot over the bar. A fine performance, nonetheless, one which will have put him on the radars of several top clubs this summer.
Romelu Lukaku: 6/10
Had a shot saved early on and looked dangerous whenever he tried to run behind the Italian defence. Grew isolated as time passed though, meaning he could not carry the same level of goal threat he usually does. Still, held his nerve for the penalty then had a goal-bound effort blocked by Spinazzola.
Dries Mertens: 5/10
Replaced Tielemans in the 69th minute. Couldn’t get into the game.
Nacer Chadli: N/A
On for Meunier in the 70th minute. Delivered one good cross before limping off with an injury four minutes later.
Dennis Praet: N/A
Came on for the injured Chadli.
Gianluigi Donnarumma: 7.5/10
Made two fine stops to deny Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku in the first half. Looked assured with his handling, was authoritative inside the box. Such a mature display.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo: 5/10
Given a run for his money by Doku all game long as he found it hard to cope with the Belgian forward’s pace and movement. An unnecessary nudge on the youngster led to the penalty which offered Belgium a way back.
Leonardo Bonucci: 7.5/10
Early jitters when Lukaku ran at pace but recovered and along with his partner, repelled anything that came towards his team’s goal. Unlucky to see his early goal ruled out for a marginal offside call. Distributed the ball brilliantly, making some lovely line-breaking passes throughout.
The Italian fans didn’t want to stop hugging Chiellini and Bonucci ? pic.twitter.com/JH6mhB6wnE
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 2, 2021
Giorgio Chiellini: 7.5/10
Back into the side after not featuring against Austria, the Italy captain, much like Bonucci, didn’t enjoy Lukaku making the runs in behind. But soon found his footing and ensured that the Belgian striker hardly had a sniff at the goal. Strong and resolute, led the team by example.
Leonardo Spinazzola: 8/10
Yet another stunning display down the left-hand side from Spinazzola, who carried a great threat each time he strode forward and linked up with Insigne, playing a key role in Italy’s dominating display. Produced a crucial goal-line block to deny Lukaku a certain equaliser in the second half. Had to be stretchered off the field late on with an injury, though.
Nicolo Barella: 8/10
Nicolò Barella completed more take-ons (3) against #BEL than the rest of his team-mates combined (2), scored the first goal and provided the assist for the second.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 2, 2021
Barella has arrived at the Euros. The midfielder had made a slow start to the tournament, leading to questions whether he should make way for either Matteo Pessina or Manuel Locatelli. However, on Friday, he showed why he is deserving of his spot in the side. So much energy and intensity, pressed the opposition constantly. Got the opening goal with a fine finish after some neat footwork and also grabbed the assist for the second.
Another game wherein the Chelsea midfielder controlled and dicatated the tempo of the game beautifully throughout while covering the defence effectively when needed. Always calm and composed with the ball at his feet, made the right decisions constantly and linked up well with those around him. Strengthening the calls for a shock Ballon d’Or contention?
Marco Verratti: 8/10
The early booking for a foul on Tielemans aside, Verratti hardly put a foot wrong on the night. Like Barella, was always harrying the opposition and was brilliant with the ball at his feet, constantly carving out openings. Played a lovely pass into Immobile before regaining possession to set Barella up for the first goal. Continued to dominate the midfield battle before being taken off.
Marco Verratti's game by numbers vs. #BEL
94% pass accuracy
46 final ⅓ passes
11 passes into the final
9 duels won
5 passes into the box
5 ball recoveries
4 tackles made
3 chances created
3 fouls won
2 aerial duels won
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 2, 2021
Federico Chiesa: 6.5/10
Lively from the off, the Juventus winger had his fair share of bright moments, especially in the first half when he asked some questions of Jan Vertonghen. However, his decision-making was a bit of a letdown.
Ciro Immobile: 5/10
One of the very few Italy players who were not up to the mark on Friday night. While he did work hard, Immobile was guilty of wasting multiple chances over the course of the game. Made way for Andrea Belotti eventually.
Lorenzo Insigne: 8/10
Was a thorn in the side for Belgium as he executed some lovely link-up play with Spinazzola on the left, while posing a threat with his curling efforts from the right foot – one of which did nestle into the back of the net for the second goal after a surging run. Some of his passing was a delight to the eye.
— Goal (@goal) July 2, 2021
Bryan Cristante: N/A
On for Verratti for the final fifteen minutes or so. Helped Italy protect their lead.
Andrea Belotti: N/A
Replaced Immobile for the final quarter hour of the game. Worked hard.
Domenico Berardi: N/A
Sent on in place of Insigne in the 79th minute. Helped out at the back to see the game out. Booked.
Emerson Palmieri: N/A
Replaced the injured Spinazzola. Did his bit to keep Belgium at bay in the final stages.
Rafael Toloi: N/A
Stoppage-time substitute for Chiesa.