Italy came into the tournament on a back of a 27-match unbeaten run, and while they remain unbeaten — now 31, a new national team record — they were truly made to work for this latest one, in the Round of 16 by unfancied Austria, who were making their first ever appearance in a knockout round match at a European Championship.
And it could’ve gotten a lot worse for the Azzurri, had Marko Arnautović not strayed a foot offside just past the hour-mark when he headed the ball into the back of the net. Unfortunately for him, after a somewhat less-than-expedient VAR check, the goal was chalked off and Italy were let off the hook. They still needed extra-time to finally breach the Austrian resistance, with substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina getting on the scoresheet. Austria did make it interesting late on, when Saša Kalajdžić stooped low to bravely guide a diving header past Donnarumma — the first goal conceded by Italy in over 1100 minutes — but they would see out the final six minutes without too much trouble, much to their relief.
1168 - Sasa Kalajdzic's goal for Austria was the first Italy have conceded since October 2020, ending a run of 1168 minutes without conceding for the Italians. Breached. #EURO2020— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 26, 2021
The goal-filled extra-time made for some dramatic viewing, with high quality goals flying in at either end, though none better than Chiesa’s opener, which is certainly worth a few viewings — at least one for each of his excellent touches.
Jorginho, as usual, played the full match (all 120 minutes in this case), and was the only non-defender (or goalkeeper) to do so. The Chelsea midfielder did get a brief rest last week, at the end of Italy’s dead rubber third group game, though one does wonder if they may have lost some fluency thanks to that rotation, not to mention again starting Marco Verratti instead of rising star Manuel Locatelli, who had shown such great chemistry with Jorginho and Nicolò Barella. Perhaps some decisions to revisit there for head coach Roberto Mancini.
Emerson was in the matchday squad, but once again did not see any action.
Italy take on the winners of Belgium and Portugal in the quarterfinals on Friday, which is sure to be a blockbuster occasion.