It’s crunch time at Euro 2020(1). Juventus had a lot of its representatives knocked out in the round of 16, but both of the teams that dressed a Juve man that made it out of that carnage won their quarterfinal. Given that those two teams, Italy and Spain, are playing each other in the semifinals, Juventus are guaranteed a representative in the final on Sunday.
The Juve reps in the quarters had very different performances on the day in their games on Friday, but both matches were absolutely thrilling, setting up what looks to be a fantastic matchup on Tuesday for the right to play the final. Here’s how the details shook out.
Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Chiesa, Federico Bernardeschi
Italy’s 2-1 win over Belgium was an absolutely fabulous match. Things were tight from beginning to end, and while Italy’s two goals—especially the firecracker off the foot of Lorenzo Insigne that turned out to be the winner—were both beautiful, it was the play at the back that was perhaps an even bigger talking point.
Some doubted whether Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci—combined age, 70—would be able to stand up to the top-level attacks in this tournament. But the two of them, especially Chiellini, rolled back the clock against arguably the best that they would have to face, holding the attacking trio of Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, and promising teenager Jeremy Doku to only 10 total shots. Only three of those were on target, none of which came in the second half. As that second half wore on and the new-look Italy gradually retreated into an old-school, kill-off-the-game mindset, the two were absolutely immense. Chiellini made six clearances, blocked a shot, and was in the vicinity every time the ball came close to the Italy penalty area. To paraphrase ESPN’s Gab Marcotti, anytime the ball came close to him, it ended up going in the up far away from Gigio Donnarumma’s goal. Bonucci even had what he thought was the opening goal ruled out for offside after another excellent free kick sequence. It was a fantastic performance by both men.
Further upfield, Federico Chiesa did in fact get the start everyone was clamoring for on the right wing. He played well, and led the team with five shot attempts. He didn’t hit the target but did have a near miss off the second ball on a corner, and was a constant threat all game long until he was withdrawn at the 90th minute for Rafael Toloi. He wasn’t quite as electric as he’s been as a sub off the bench, but he did what he needed to do, helping create all kinds of danger as Italy took the lead over the course of the first half. His counterpart in the Wings of Fede, Federico Bernardeschi, was again an unused sub.
After playing the hero for Spain in the round of 16, Morata was very much anonymous in Spain’s penalty-kick win over Switzerland. He completed 90 percent of his passes, but only attempted 20 of them, and he didn’t attempt a shot on goal. He was lifted in favor of Gerard Moreno in the 53rd minute.
Morata certainly didn’t impress the way his Italian teammates did, but considering the fact that he played all 120 minutes against Croatia, it’s not necessarily a surprise that he was perhaps running on empty. It remains a question whether he or Moreno will start for Luis Enrique on Tuesday, and it could come down to how familiar Chiellini and Bonucci are with Morata — the last time these teams played in a knockout round game, in the Euro 2016 round of 16, the two kept their then-former teammate completely neutralized. However Enrique decides, he’s going to have to hope his main man’s batteries are recharged.