At the rate they’re going, Italy might not lose another game, ever. After beating the highest ranked team by FIFA, and in a fairly straightforward manner, it’s tough to see who could knock them off their perch. That’s 32 unbeaten. Thirty. Two. (And 13th win in a row.)
Two first half goals set the Azzurri on their way; Nicolò Barella opening the scoring with a fantastic strike, then setting up Lorenzo Insigne to double their lead with an equally lovely strike just before half-time. Belgium, who were without a once-again injured Eden Hazard, got back into things when Italy gave away a silly penalty to concede a rare goal — Romelu Lukaku making no mistake — but they never really looked like finding an equalizer in the second half, coming close maybe once. Another failure for their golden generation?
Jorginho misplayed just ONE pass during Italy's 2-1 win vs. #BEL— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 2, 2021
◉ 71 passes attempted
◉ 70 passes completed
◎ Most #ITA interceptions (3)
◎ Most #ITA possession won (9)
Mancini's Midfield Maestro. pic.twitter.com/FcsjYqiC9C
With a defense well-marshalled by the returning Giorgio Chiellini and a midfield anchored by the one and only Jorginho, Italy are now just two wins away from their first title since 1968. (They finished runners-up in both 2000 and 2012.)
The only negative for Italy was the heartbreaking injury picked up by Leonardo Spinazzola, who was stretchered off in tears after what appeared a nasty hamstring strain (UPDATE: even worse, Achilles). Emerson finished out the final quarter hour of the match and will likely get the call in the semifinals as well.
In said semis, Italy will face Spain, who survived Switzerland’s latest comeback. After knocking out France, the Swiss almost pulled off the upset over Spain as well, forcing extra time after conceding an early own goal — the TENTH own goal in this tournament, more than all the other Euros in history combined! — but this time failing to convert most of their penalty kicks in the shootout.
César Azpilicueta started a third match on the bounce for Spain, setting up a Chelsea captain vs. Chelsea vice-captain showdown on Tuesday at Wembley.