Italy combines old and new as Belgium’s golden generation misses another chance at stardom

Since the time window continues to close for Belgiumthe golden generation, Italy‘s Young Guns are looking forward to their own golden opportunity after a 2-1 win, which they seem to be tackling Spain in the semifinals of the European Championship 2020. The long, warm hug between Inter teammates is metaphorical Romelu Lukaku and Nicolo Barella seemed to mean just that.

But it is also a slightly reductive reading. Because Italy’s win wasn’t made easier until late in the second half by the guy who was old school before old school was even invented. Giorgio ChielliniHe, 37 years young in August, seemed to repeat every Belgian attack late in the game and showed up with uncanny punctuality: header, charge and cut the ball away at every opportunity. It wasn’t nice, it was often awkward, but the key concept is that every time the ball got within 10 meters of it, it landed farther from the Italian goal.

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While some of the Belgian stars are nearing the exit, there is another one who pushes his elbow forward. Jeremy documentary is only 19, but tormented the Italian defensive chain like a superhero mash-up of Flash and Wolverine, especially after the break. And everyone who thinks like Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne are close to graduation needs to be reconsidered.

For the Azzurri That victory, however, is the kind that offers both confidence and reassurance. After sailing through the group stage and winning Austria in extra time some people said that despite their beautiful football, they hadn’t played big boys yet. Apart from the fact that Italy took a 3-0 beating Switzerlandwho knocked out France and brought Spain to penalties, there were no bigger boys in the competition than Belgium.

“And we deserve to beat them,” said Italy coach Roberto Mancini after the game. “It was an open game, we stayed at eye level and are now looking confidently to the future.”

The main pre-game question was Kevin De Bruyne’s fitness. At the beginning of the second half he was injured in the last round against off Portugal and was still dealing with a separate nerve ailment. Still, he was behind Romelu Lukaku and next to the teenage darts documentary out there.

This trio was an important part of the Belgian game plan, not only in possession but also in derailing the Azzurris build up. Lukaku, Doku and De Bruyne stood close together, happy to let the central defenders take the ball but helped shield Italy’s playmakers. Jorginho and Marco Verratti. This forced Italy into wide areas where they looked less comfortable for the first half hour.

In fact, the two best chances before the 30-minute mark went to Belgium. A vintage De Bruyne counter finished with a gorgeous finish, neutralized by Gianluigi Donnarumma‘s strong right hand. It was a reminder that few footballers today can hit the ball as sweetly as De Bruyne, even if they are injured. It was also, as Donnarumma would later say: “The greatest salvation of my career so far.”

Shortly thereafter is the Manchester city Midfielder hit another counterattack and opened the game for Lukaku, who faced Chiellini before forcing Donnarumma to make a solid save. However, by this point Italy had figured out how to get into the opposing half and stay there. They pushed up, forcing Belgium to long balls for Lukaku to bypass De Bruyne. Italy took the lead when Barella received the ball from Marco Verratti Thorgan danger and suddenly sped into space before pounding it home.

You might have had a second shortly after, but Ciro Immobile It took too long to try a shot after an excellent job Leonardo Spinazzola. Got stuck between three opponents who Lazio Striker fought playfully but often with limited results. However, there was not much time to lament the missed opportunity because the little man, Lorenzo Insigne, skipped Youri Tielemans and put one of his patented curling finishes in there where Thibaut Courtois would never rise.

“I knew Tielemans had a yellow card so I knew he wouldn’t foul me if I got past him,” said Insigne. “That gave me the space for the goal.”

Italy seemed to go into halftime with two goals, but Doku, who had done little until then, had other ideas. He raced towards Giovanni di Lorenzo, accelerated past him, and went down when the defender’s elbow came out. Referee Slavko Vincic pointed to the point and Lukaku took the penalty home. Martinez rubbed his temples on the sidelines. Mancini folded his hands.

Few things are as draining – or as stimulating, depending on which side you are on – as a goal just before the halfway point that opens a game again. Documentary was certainly full of energy as he was one of Belgium’s most persistent threats for much of the second half. On the other front, Italy was furious, partly because they found the punishment harsh, partly because they couldn’t see the leadership.

“Yes, we were angry when we went in, very angry,” said Donnarumma. “But we put it out of our minds. We said to ourselves that we were still in the lead and that we wouldn’t let that affect us in the second half.”

Shortly after an hour, Doku grabbed a loose ball, terrorized the Italian defense and pushed it to De Bruyne. His cross found Lukaku, whose finish was destroyed after a lungbreaking run by the recovering Spinazzola. Spinazzola himself could have scored a third goal at the other end, shortly afterwards after a great ball from Insigne, but he rushed to the goal.

With 20 minutes left, Martinez knew it was time to play. Nacer Chadli came for Thomas Meunier – same for same – but Tielemans has been replaced by Dries Mertenswhich means De Bruyne dropped deeper into midfield. Chadli was unlucky: his game only lasted a few minutes before an injury forced Martinez to pass it on Dennis Praet in its place.

Mancini’s answer was to dispose of Immobile, who had done a lot of work but very little quality, and replace him with Andrea Belotti, while the more defensive Bryan Cristante came for Verratti. A few moments later, Spinazzola, probably Italy’s best player at the European Championships, went down with his left leg. It looked like the same injury that has haunted him over and over the years. Came on Emersonwhen Spinazzola clutched his face, crying and sobbing, even when he was lying on the stretcher. Athletes know their bodies. He looked like a man who knew his euros were over, although the exact nature of the injury was still unclear.

Belgium was at the top, no one more than the loaded documentary. A lightning-fast run and a goal sailed just over the crossbar. It felt like something could happen every time he received the ball. Something not good for the Italians. The fact that at this point the Azzurri had effectively stopped pressing and Axel Witsel Had to hand out balls from the middle of the park all day didn’t help.

Donnarumma described these last few minutes as “infinite” and for Italy fans it felt like this scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, when the clock is running backwards at the end of the school day. But the final whistle came and set them free.

Before the tournament, they scored two goals. One was to reach the semifinals. The other was to show that they can play modern, offensive football and that they can do it well. Review and review. Now they are playing with house money.

So why not set a new goal? Win everything.

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