Perhaps the best term to use for Italy’s round of 16 win over Austria at Euro 2020 is that they bulldozed their way through. For much of this game at Wembley, Italy were frustrated bordering on edgy, and quiet bordering on stuck. Yet, they came out victorious, for a fourth successive European Championship quarter-final place.
Italy Respond to Austria Test to Reach Euro 2020 Quarter-Final
Much had been made of Italy and their 27-game unbeaten coming into this tournament. Roberto Mancini had made no secret of his pining for the national job, and it finally came to him in 2018. And, the former Manchester City manager has not so much matched expectations as he’s heightened them. Italy looked a mess before his arrival, having scandalously failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
If expectations were still quite lowkey going into these Euros, they started to rise as each game progressed. First came the Turkey opener, where, after a tough first half, they ran riot. Then they blazed past Switzerland in their second game, for two 3-0 wins on the bounce. In the third game, they saw off Wales with room to spare. Their unbeaten run was extended to 30 games, and they finished the group phase with a 100% record, without conceding.
For some who have been following the Azzurri since Mancini took over, Italy feel like a rather underappreciated television series. The kind you’d been recommending to people all this time, and now beam in vindication as the world starts to take notice.
Struggle Against Austria
Yet, Austria were a different test. It was one thing for Italy to be swashbuckling in the group stage. It was another to come up against a side that wouldn’t budge in a knockout game. This is where the margin for error is significantly reduced. One mistake could be it. One moment and all that optimism can come crashing down.
Italy looked to have suffered that crushing blow in this game when Marko Arnautovic headed past Gigi Donnaruma midway through the second half. But that turned out to be little more than a scare, and to Italy’s credit, they came away victorious.
They needed extra time and substitutes to up the ante, but they made it. If, during the first half of extra time, they bulldozed their way through, in the second, they held on. It was a mix of Old Italy and New Italy. The invention and the determination. The resilience and the resolve. Austria posed a different test, their most difficult yet, but the Italians have passed.
Are Italy Euro 2020 Favourites?
Perhaps it’s always foolhardy to pick favourites in a one-game knockout competition. Plus, teams who win every game hardly win the ultimate prize. But Italy have passed every test so far. So far, Roberto Mancini has adapted his team, and done well to emphasise their strengths.
With a few of the other big guns still to convince and find their feet, Italy look like the standout nation so far. There will be greater tests still to come, but the Azzurri look ripe for a first European title in over half a century.