The Italy we saw Saturday night was not the one that we saw throughout the Euro 2020 group stage. The free-flowing team that created chances galore and essentially smothered the opposition wasn’t there. Instead, this Italy team looked disjointed and flustered, clearly not clicking anywhere close to the way they did during their first three games of the tournament.
The trip to England wasn’t a pleasant one.
It was, however, one that ended with a win. It nail-biting win, but a win nonetheless.
And it just so happened that a familiar name around these parts bagged the winner.
Yes, it was Federico Chiesa, on from the bench with the hope of changing the game for the better for the boys in blue, did exactly that. Chiesa’s 95th-minute goal broke the deadlock and Matteo Pessina added what proved to be some much-needed breathing room right before halftime of extra time, as Italy was able to escape a very sluggish overall performance to beat Austria 2-1 and advance to the Euro 2020 quarterfinals.
Freddie Church, loose in the box, doing Freddie Church things.
As we’ve seen for the better part of the previous eight months, good things happen when that’s happening. And Chiesa, with
Maybe saying “sluggish” is a compliment in some respects because there were times when this looked like it was going to be Austria’s day rather than a game where Italy grinds out a win. VAR helped Italy big time in the second half, and it’s a big reason as to why Italy was able to keep Austria off the scoreboard and keep their now-historic shutout streak going. It was not good for Roberto Mancini and Co. for a lot of this game — especially in the second half.
I’ll go ahead and give you an idea of how much of a struggle it proved to be for Italy. This tweet was sent out a couple of minutes into extra time:
Italy’s last shot on target of the game came in the 17th minute. pic.twitter.com/41Kdf3oFse— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 26, 2021
BIG YIKES. VERY BIG YIKES.
And about two minutes after that tweet was posted, Chiesa scored.
Call it a sign that something was on the way, whatever. Or a reverse jinx or sorts. It doesn’t matter what you call it, just remember that Italy’s next shot on goal after going such a long time without a shot on goal proved to be the one that got them on the scoreboard. And the shot after one of the best saves of this tournament to date proved to be the one that won the game for Italy and came from a source that has gotten game-winning goals in back-to-back games.
On a night when Italy were far from the team we saw in the group stage, they somehow managed to get the job done. Austria brought it and they gave Italy all they could handle. Italy may not be hyped as much after this game as compared to when they were coming out of the group stage.
But when push came to shove, a couple of guys off the bench showed that it’s not just the starting XI that can get the job done and propelled Italy into the quarterfinals. Not bad even if some antacids are needed before taking a nice long nap.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Federico Chiesa’s first touch on his goal — good.
- Federico Chiesa’s second touch on his goal — really good.
- Federico Chiesa’s third and final touch on his goal — fan-f’ing-tastic.
- FREDDIE CHURCH!
- Those Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini celebrations on the touchline, they’re fun.
- Not as fun: Mancini waiting so long to bring on the likes of Chiesa and others. This team clearly needed a change, and waiting so long to do so just let Austria hang around for so much longer than they should have.
- Sure, that’s hindsight, but whatever, man. This shouldn’t have gone to extra time.
- At least it didn’t go to penalties. Thank the dear Lord it didn’t go to penalties.
- Oh boy was that a rough game for Ciro Immobile.
- Oh boy was that a rough game for Domenico Berardi. And it didn’t help that one of his last “contributions” on the field was an attempt side volley that went in the opposite direction of the goal.
- Italy’s marking on Austria’s goal — yikes. Manuel Locatelli showing that he really is ready for Juventus with that kind of marking at the near post. It was ... not impressive.
- It’s stating the obvious at this point, but I do wish that Leonardo Spinazzola was still a Juventus player because he has developed into one hell of a fullback. Good on him.
- RIP to the shutout streak. It was fun while it lasted. (Or maybe the last 100 or so minutes of it weren’t all that fun.)
- Manuel Locatelli, after coming on in the 66th minute, led Italy in tackles. Sure, his marking on Austria’s goal was not good, but he sure worked his butt off defensively the rest of the time he was out there.
- Jorginho completed 110 passes. That’s a lot.
- What else is there to say about this game? Not much. So see you all in the quarterfinals.