At the Mapei Stadium the Azzurrini had the obligation to beat Belgium already eliminated to continue hoping for qualification for the semifinals. Shortly before the break, Barella unlocks it, then doubles Cutrone; Vershaeren shortens for Belgium, Mancini hits the post with a header in the 87th minute on the development of a corner, but then Chiesa takes care of it with a beautiful goal to sign the 3-1 final. Spain’s 5-0 concurrent over Poland, however, qualifies the Spaniards as first.
Now, for the team of coach Di Biagio, the continuation of the journey in Europe becomes very complicated: in fact, Italy can only pass as the best second. But with almost impossible joints: the runners-up of the other groups (Germany, Denmark or Austria in group B, France and Romania in group C) must close at 6 points (or less) with a goal difference lower than that of the blues or, a tie in goal difference, with fewer goals scored, or, in the case of a further tie, with a higher discipline score.
44 ′ Barella, 53 ′ Cutrone, 79 ′ Vershaeren, 89 ′ Church
BELGIUM (4-4-2): De Wolf; Cools, Bornauw, Bushiri, Cobbaut; Omeonga (59 ′ Vershaeren), Schrijvers, Heynen, Bastien (59 ′ Mangala); Lukebakio, Saelemaekers (74 ‘Mbenza). Coach Walem
ITALY (4-3-1-2): Meret; Calabresi, G. Mancini, Bastoni, Pezzella; Barella, Mandragora, Locatelli (72 ′ Tonali); Lo. Pellegrini (80 ′ Bonazzoli); Church, Cutrone. All. Di Biagio
Ammoniti: Saelemaekers (B), Cools (B), Bushiri (B), Mangala (B), Locatelli (I), Vershaeren (B), Mbenza (B)
Expelled: Mbenza (B)
The European Championship of Italy is frozen. It will take forty-eight hours to understand if we will be on a plane to Tokyo in the summer of 2020 but above all to dream of the continental title. Italy did their duty, beating Belgium 3-1 and closing at six points, but it was not enough to win the group because in Bologna Spain beat Poland 5-0 and finished first for the best goal difference in the detached standings. We are hanging by a thread in the race for the best runner-up, but France-Romania on Monday evening is not a little frightening.
The punishment for the delay decided for Kean shuffles the cards of the formation: Di Biagio confirms the 4-3-3 but is forced to raise Pellegrini wide on the left and insert Locatelli in midfield. Italy made a decisive start and at 7 ‘went very close to the advantage with Barella, who arrived with a header on Pezzella’s cross but did not frame the goal by centimeters. It seems the beginning of a boarding and instead Italy goes with the handbrake. Slow and scholastic circulation, which is not surprising in Belgium. Indeed, it is Belgium that frightens us with a diagonal from Lukebakio rejected by Meret. As with Poland, the Azzurri struggle in the last twenty meters and then try from the outside, without ever really frightening De Wolf. We need a spark, which comes just before the break from the most electric player: Pezzella still catches Barella on the far post which this time kicks on the fly, the Belgian goalkeeper’s rejection goes back to the Cagliari midfielder who finds the long post with his left foot. But the blue joy is contained: Spain is already 3-0 with Poland.
Without thinking about what happens in Bologna, Italy begins the recovery in the assault because in any case a good goal difference is needed to still hope for a possible placement as best second. And at 8 ‘the 2-0 immediately arrives with a nice header from Cutrone. At 20 ‘Locatelli has a very occasional split a few meters from the goal, but sends to the side. Then Mandragora and Cutrone hit De Wolf on the wall. But it is a good sign: Italy wants to do its utmost to hope again.
However, the news coming from Bologna is not comforting and Ceballos’ 4-0 freezes the Mapei Stadium too. As a result, Italy seems to be losing enthusiasm and allows Belgium to get back into the game with a pearl from the outside around Verschaeren, who puts Meret at the intersection of the posts. Mancini’s post in the 43rd minute seems a sinister signal for the future, but Chiesa’s goal in the 44th minute feeds the flame of hope. Italy closes second with six points and a plus 3 goal difference: it’s not bad, but the biscuit nightmare between Romania and France is just around the corner. And the Romanians could also lose 2-0 and pass anyway: they would have the same goal difference as Italy, but with 8 goals scored.