Italy 2-1 Belgium: Azzurri secure third place at Nations League finals

by 24USATVOct. 10, 2021, 9 p.m. 20
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Italy claimed third place in the UEFA Nations League as two second-half goals saw off a Belgium side who hit the woodwork three times.

Alexis Saelemaekers clipped the crossbar with the best chance of the first half, although Thibaut Courtois was also forced into an excellent save to deny Federico Chiesa just before the interval.

The deadlock was broken early in the second period when Nicolò Barella fizzed in an unstoppable volley after a corner had only been half-cleared.

Chiesa was then fouled by Timothy Castagne in the area and Domenico Berardi scored from the spot, despite Courtois getting a hand to the ball.

Michy Batshuayi and Yannick Carrasco also hit the frame of the goal before Charles De Ketelaere's late strike, but it was too little, too late for Belgium.

"Played really well. Good on the inside, making space for Di Lorenzo. Dangerous balls and shots as well as a very good work ethic. Does plenty of defensive work too."

Giovanni van Bronckhorst, UEFA Technical Observer

Italy are back to winning ways after seeing their world-record run ended by Spain in the semi-finals. The Azzurri confirmed their impressive depth in midfield, where Lorenzo Pellegrini and Manuel Locatelli proved to be more than adequate alternatives to the Barella-Jorginho-Verratti triumvirate which has served Roberto Mancini so well. Italy rode their luck considering Belgium hit the woodwork three times, but this was a performance of real resilience considering the context.

Belgium were looking not only to take bronze away from these finals, but also to avenge the UEFA EURO 2020 quarter-final defeat they suffered at the hands of Italy. Though they came up short with a much-changed side, there were positives to take away in the performances of Saelemaekers and De Ketelaere in particular.

Roberto Mancini, Italy coach: "Our performance was really good. We have a lot of solutions and quality in midfield. All the lads did well. They were two excellent matches; the important thing is that the team continues to play well."

Domenico Berardi, Player of the Match: "We wanted to do well right away after the defeat by Spain. We wanted to win – it was important for the ranking and we're happy with it. I'm satisfied with my performance, but the important thing was to win and give a signal. We did it."

Roberto Martínez, Belgium coach: “Now we need to learn to control even more matches, both offensively and defensively. This can help in what we want to build into next year."
• Italy have lost only one of their last 39 matches – the semi-final defeat by Spain (W29 D9).
• Mancini has won 30 of his 44 games in charge of the Azzurri.
• Barella has scored two of his seven international goals against Belgium.
• De Ketelaere's consolation for Belgium was his first international goal.
• Barella's goal was the 100th Italy have scored under Mancini.

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