Italy outclass stuttering Belgium
A complete Italian squad beat world number two Belgium comprehensively riding on goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle in each half in Group E encounter at Stade des Lumieres, Lyon on Tuesday.
Despite Belgium being the favourites for the match, Italians put up a fierce and powerful battle to earn the important victory and established themselves as strong contenders of the European Championship.
Belgium gave themselves a positive start with Lukaku showing good speed and Nainggolan going deep with strikes. Buffon had to make strong saves in order to deny Belgians of an early celebration.
Italy, thereafter, made good movement in the Belgian half and subsequently, in the 32nd minute, Leonardo Bonucci put a wonderful through ball towards Emanuele who made the best of the open space left to him by the Belgian defence to strike the ball into the bottom right corner.
Going down by a goal, Belgium looked slightly shaky for a few minutes with Italy easily breaching through and Courtois stood big to keep Belgium in the game.
Italy defended extremely well while Belgium made some close efforts at the goal before the half time whistle blew.
Soon after the second half began, Italy went on a dangerous break and Vertonghen displayed individual defensive skill as he made a crucial sliding tackle to put the ball out.
In the 53rd minute, Belgium built an impressive counter attacking move which ended with Lukaku hitting the ball just wide. Right after that, Italy attacked the Belgian goal and Courtois made an excellent save.
The game picked up great energy as both teams played their men up in search of goals. The Italians cost the most problems to Belgium as they were able to place balls over the Belgian defence leaving the defenders in split.
Contrary to the wide perception, Italy did not really sit back but produced wonderful counter attacking football. Despite Belgians going deep for the goal, the Italian defence closed down extremely well to defend their goal.
In the dying minutes of the game, Italy played up the Belgian defence against the run of play when Candreva moved around with the ball attracting a hasty back line and Courtois towards himself to lift a delightful ball across for Pelle who smashed a wonderful volley at the back of the net.
Throughout the game, the Belgians played with the ball more than the Italians but Italy smartly rose to occasions and made them count.
Antonio Conte’s outfit upset highly facied men of Marc Wilmots’ to pick up three points. Italy will next go against Sweden on Friday while Belgium will take on Republic of Ireland in order to gauge a crucial victory on Saturday.