Azzurri Insigne, Verratti Bend Bosnia’s Resistance

The Azzurri have learned to suffer. It was a battle with no quarter on Tuesday at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, where Italy knocked down Bosnia with goals by Lorenzo Insigne and Marco Verratti, coming from behind in the second half to neutralize Edin Dzeko’s opener. Roberto Mancini caught the fourth win in four Euro 2020 qualification games, placing one foot and a half into next year’s European Championship.

Italy now lead Group J of the Qualifiers with a three-point margin over Finland, which Mancini’s band beat in the opening match. We have already noted that this group is far from being an impossible one, and feet should be firmly kept on the ground.

However, seeing the Azzurri pushing hard for the winner after going down – and even with a draw possibly being an acceptable outcome – was a true godsend for Italian supporters, who have been through some hard times of skinny cows when it comes to their national football selection ever since their failure to qualify for World Cup 2018.

Bosnia indeed offered no easy target despite an unexpected 0-2 loss to Finland suffered last Saturday. Led by international superstars Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic, both playing in Serie A together with starter Ervin Zukanovic, they were considered the toughest contender in Group J for the Nazionale on the road to the next European competition.

The Bosnians could enjoy the tireless support from a colorful cohort of 5000 loud fans, who crossed the Alps and descended in Turin to turn the stands of the Allianz Stadium into a Little Sarajevo. History was on their side, as Bosnia had sort of a perfect record against the Azzurri, having won the only precedent matchup, a friendly game in 1996 which marked the end of Arrigo Sacchi’s tenure as Italy’s manager.

Despite the absence of Arsenal’s left back Sead Kolasinac, the Balkan squad could feature a solid lineup on whose bench sat a chubbier, shabbier version of former Real Madrid star Robert Prosinecki – reminding us that time can take a heavy tool even on the greatest football stars.

Robert, I mean…How could THIS actually happen??? (Photos: EMPICS Sport and Reuters / Jason Cairnduff, edited by The Cult of Calcio)

The Croatian coach nailed the right strategy that won his side the lead, placing his watchdogs Edin Visca and Amer Gojak to press hard on Italy’s midfield, managing to bridle playmakers Jorginho and Marco Verratti and prevent them from supplying the Azzurri’s trident for the first 45 minutes.

Roberto Mancini operated three changes versus three days ago’s winning trip to Greece, replacing Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti with Federico Bernardeschi and Fabio Quagliarella on the front Line. His namesake Gianluca Mancini was lined up in place of Alessandro Florenzi as right back, with the task of using his size to contrast Edin Dzeko.

Mancini had a good start, but was progressively overwhelmed by the uncontrollable Roma striker, who in the 18th minute ignited a dangerous counterattack by serving his teammate Edin Visca. It took an all-or-nothing slide by Leonardo Bonucci to block the Bosnian’s progression just before he could shoot into Salvatore Sirigu’s goal.

It was only a matter of minutes however, before Bosnia could draw first blood. Muhamed Besic’s back-heel pass served Edin Visca on the right flank, ready for a cross that Edin Dzeko only had to push into the Azzurri’s net, right below the stadium sector occupied by his howling supporters.

Italy’s reaction took the form of Fabio Quagliarella’s only noteworthy initiative, a powerful shot in the 41st minute that called the opponent goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic to a super save. Coach Mancini left Quaglia in the locker room at half time, substituting him with Federico Chiesa and moving Federico Bernardeschi in a falso nueve position.

Giorgio Chiellini battles with Edin Dzeko, a clash often seen on the Italian Serie A pitches nowadays

The Azzurri made it even 10 minutes after the break, thanks to a masterpiece by Lorenzo Insigne. Napoli’s winger caught a corner by Federico Bernardeschi from the right side, and slammed the ball past Ibrahim Sehic with a stunning right-footed volley to redeem his impalpable performance from the first half.

Lorenzo Il Magnifico’s screamer switched the game momentum, but the Azzurri’s high pressing risked exposing themselves again to the Bosnians’ counterattacks. Salvatore Sirigu ventured into a risky slide outside of his area to block another chance by Edin Dzeko, then pulled off another fine save on a right foot shot by Edin Visca.

Roberto Mancini’s confidence that the game could be won grew: With 9 minutes to go, he sounded the charge by pulling out Federico Bernardeschi, and replacing him with true central striker Andrea Belotti. The Azzurri heard their coach’s calling and fought on every ball, pushed by Il Gallo’s determination.

Italy grabbed three key points on the road to Euro 2020 in the 86th minute, thanks to a sublime duet between the once teammates Lorenzo Insigne and Marco Verratti, with the Neapolitan serving Paris Saint Germain’s midfielder a perfect assist from the left. Verratti converted with a razor-sharp finish into the far bottom corner to wrap Italy’s fourth win in a row and give coach Mancini a relaxing summer before the next Qualifiers match against Armenia on September 5.


June 11, 2019 – European Championship 2020 Qualifiers Group J

SCORERS: 32′ Dzeko (B), 49′ Insigne (I), 86′ Verratti (I)

ITALY (4-3-3): Sirigu; Mancini (66′ De Sciglio), Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Bernardeschi (80′ Belotti), Quagliarella (46′ Chiesa), Insigne (Cragno, Gollini, Romagnoli, Florenzi, Pellegrini, Sensi, Cristante) Coach: Mancini
BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA (4-4-2): Sehic; Todorovic, Bicakcic, Zukanovic, Civic (72′ Nastic); Besic, Pjanic, Saric; Visca, Dzeko, Gojak (80′ Cimirot) (Kovacevic, Piric, Memisevic, Duljevic, Sunjic, Bajic, Prevljak, Vrancic, Zakaric, Milosevic) Coach: Prosinecki

REFEREE: Estrada Fernandez (Spain)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Jorginho, Bonucci (I), Besic, Saric, Džeko (B)

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