Long neutralized by an uninhibited and disciplined Austria, Italy won, Saturday, June 26, after extra time (2-1), offering a record of 31 games without defeat and especially a quarter-final of the Euro, Friday in Munich, against Belgium or Portugal.
While it was almost impossible for the Italians to make the trip to London due to travel restrictions linked to Covid-19, the large transalpine community of London had flocked to Wembley to make it look like a home match. eighth. Between the hymn Brothers of Italy sung at the top of the lungs and the mild weather, although a little cooler than in Rome, not much could disorientate a Squadra Azzurra presented as one of the great favorites of the competition after a brilliantly mastered first lap.
The Austrian coach – but of German nationality and with Italian roots through his father – Franco Foda had however promised that his team would fully play the « 10 % chance “ that he was self-tuning. And his men have responded. But despite their technical superiority and strong ball control, the Italians have only rarely put their Alpine neighbors out of position.
Right midfielder triangle Xaver Schlager-Konrad Laimer-Marcel Sabitzer showed great things in the use of the ball, while Marko Arnautovic remained a latent threat in the middle of the attack for 97 minutes. The Italian midfielder, in which Marco Verratti had finally been preferred at the kickoff to Manuel Locatelli, was much less domineering than against the Turks, the Swiss or the Welsh in the pool.
The opportunities of Nicolo Barella, on a center back from Leonardo Spinazzola, but well pushed back by Daniel Bachmann (17e), or the distant and floating strike of Ciro Immobile, which touched the outside of the skylight (32e), have translated the Italian ascendant of the first act. But the Azzurri returned to the locker room quite frustrated and for the first time without leading the score in this competition. They also seemed to lose the thread of their game a little on the restart, angering Roberto Mancini stamping on his touch.
Chiesa and Pessina, the executioners
Austria was emboldened, even if Arnautovic did too much before completely unscrewing his shot (49e) or if David Alaba just missed the target with a free kick to 20 yards, three minutes later.
Shortly after the hour mark, the tifosi’s blood even froze when Arnautovic headed a header, but it was to better cheer the decision of the VAR, long seconds later, which canceled the goal for an offside (65e). Shaken, Italy regained control of the match but despite a few timid attempts, it found itself for the eighth time in its history in an extra time at the Euro, an absolute record.
But by dint of folding, Austria ended up breaking at the very start of extra time. Entered at 84e, Federico Chiesa, magnificently served by Spinazzola, took the ball to deceive Bachmann with a cross shot into the small net (1-0, 95e). On goal, Alaba, caught in his back after following a good call in the axis of Matteo Pessina, collapsed face down, aware of the mountain now to be climbed for his people.
Just before half-time in extra time, the same Pessina took advantage of a scramble in the area to further compound the challenge (2-0, 105e).
Proudly, Austria reduced the score to 114e minute on a diving header from Sasa Kalajdzic (2-1, 114e), ending 1,168 scoreless minutes for Squadra Azzura, which surpassed its previous record, set between September 1972 and June 1974, with 1,143 minutes, by Dino Zoff in the cage by 25 minutes. A goal ultimately anecdotal but the energy left in London by the Italians could not be anecdotal in six days when it will be necessary to challenge the number one team in the FIFA rankings, Belgium, or the Portuguese title holders.