Italy Needed Extra Time Goals to Overcome Tenacious Austria

Italy needed extra times to overcome a gritty and tenacious Austrian side at Wembley and book their ticket to the Euro 2020 Quarter Finals. After 90 minutes of nervous stalemate that saw the Azzurri saved by the VAR, Italy finally put their heads ahead with substitute Federico Chiesa before late addition Matteo Pessina doubled their lead.

But Austria managed to keep the game open until the very end thanks to Sasa Kalajdzic’s late goal – the first conceded by Roberto Mancini’s band after 1168 minutes of clean sheets. It was an authentic battle. 

After three shimmering performances in the Group Stage, Austria were billed as a tough opponent for the Azzurri in the first do-or-die game of their European campaign. Franco Foda’s side knew how to do it. Physical, well-organized, and with an incredible athleticism, the Austrians were lined up in a solid 4-1-4-1 fashion with Inter’s meteora Marko Arnautovic acting as a lone striker. They had everything they needed to put Italy in trouble. And they surely did.  

For Italy, Marco Verratti was fully recovered from his injury and coach Mancini deployed him in place of Manuel Locatelli. With Alessandro Florenzi still unavailable, Giovanni Di Lorenzo covered the right back position. Francesco Acerbi filled captain Giorgio Chiellini’s spot. 

The battle of Wembley had an unexpected start as the Austrians were maybe the first team in this Euro to press Italy and force them into their own half.

The Azzurri tried to hit on the counter but, after Leonardo Spinazzola’s shot out of target, could only come up with a Lorenzo Insigne curling effort that gave Daniel Bachmann no reason for concern. 

Much more difficult was the goalkeeper’s next feat, a right-foot save to deny Nicolò Barella from close range. Austria replied with a Marko Arnautovic shot that crashed into the Wembley stands. 

Coach Franco Foda had a plan which became clearer minute by minute: Prevent the Azzurri‘s midfielders – especially Jorginho and Verratti – from doing their thing. As the two Italy playmakers were progressively left with no space to ignite any spark for the Azzurri‘s front runners, chances for Mancini’s side dwindled. 

On 31 minutes, Ciro Immobile tried with a magic trick from outside the box but his right-foot stunner only made Bachmann’s woodwork rattle. That what the last chance in a first part of the game that ended with no goals.

There was a scare for Italy right after the restart as Giovanni Di Lorenzo conceded a free kick from the edge of the box. Luckily for them, Real Madrid new joiner David Alaba’s conversion was unworthy of his fame. 

The Azzurri were helped again by Lady Luck on 65 minutes as a VAR check caught Arnautovic offside as he headed the ball into the back of the net from an Alaba service, with Italy’s defense caught unprepared. It was a matter of a few millimeters and an Austrian lead would not have sounded totally undeserved.  

With no change to the match trend in sight, Roberto Mancini had to reshape his midfield. He sent in Manuel Locatelli and Matteo Pessina for the clueless Barella and Verratti. 

Pessina’s first intervention was a very dangerous tackle on Stefan Lainer with his elbow raised high to hit his opponent in the box, but the whole action was cancelled as the Austrian was offside. Another sigh of relief for the Azzurri.   

With seven minutes to go, Mancini made more changes, this time reshaping his front line. It was time for Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti. When Chiesa made his first shooting attempt – easily saved by Bachmann – the game was already into extra time. 

The second, however, was the winning one: The Juventus talent grabbed a cross from Leonardo Spinazzola, got rid of his marker Lainer, and fired the ball into the back of the net to finally put Italy ahead.

It was like all the tension was suddenly released. From then on, it was all Azzurri. On 103 minutes, Bachmann flew towards his left post to defuse an Insigne curling free kick. One minute later, Acerbi released Pessina in the box and the Atalanta man made no mistake with a sharp left-foot conclusion. 

Austria were still alive and didn’t hesitate to test Gianluigi Donnarumma as substitute Michael Gregoritsch called the by-now former Milan goalkeeper to a super save. Donnarumma thus managed to extend his freshly-conquered record for the longest clean sheet streak in the history of the Azzurri.

Not for long, however. Sasa Kalajdzic confirmed to be a top transfer market prospect with a perfectly-timed header to anticipate Locatelli and sneak the ball into the near post to keep Austria’s hopes alive. After 1168 minutes, the Italian fort fell. It was the first goal the Azzurri conceded since October 2020.

But it was a price worth paying as the score didn’t change anymore and Italy pulled off an extremely hard-earned qualification to the Quarter Finals. Full credit to Austria for really putting Italy to the ropes. Against Portugal or Belgium – their next opponent – the Azzurri won’t be allowed tonight’s distractions.   



June 26, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Round of 16
ITALY-AUSTRIA 2-1 after extra time

SCORERS: 95′ Chiesa (I), 104′ Pessina (I), 114′ Kalajdzic (A)

ITALY (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Acerbi, Spinazzola; Barella (67′ Pessina), Jorginho, Verratti (67′ Locatelli); Berardi (83′ Chiesa), Immobile (83′ Belotti), Insigne (107′ Cristante) (Sirigu, Meret, Toloi, Bastoni, Emerson, Raspadori, Bernardeschi) Coach: Mancini
AUSTRIA (4-2-3-1): Bachmann; Lainer (113′ Ilsanker), Dragovic, Hinteregger, Alaba; X. Schlager (105′ Gregoritsch), Grillitsch (105′ Schaub); Laimer, Sabitzer, Baumgartner (89′ Schopf); Arnautovic (96′ Kalajdzic) (Pervan, A. Schlager, Ulmer, Posch, Lienhart, Baumgartlinger) Coach: Foda

REFEREE: Taylor (England)
NOTES: Yellow Card: Di Lorenzo, Barella (I), Arnautovic, Hinteregger, Dragovic (A); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 5′, 1st Extra Half 1′, 2nd Extra Half 1′