If the first round of 16 of Euro 2020 match turned into a one-sided affair, the second match of the day was anything but that. Sure, on paper, Italy Austria looked like a foregone conclusion. Italy should have walked away with a win: one of the two teams to win all group matches, yet to concede against a team that was over the moon just to have qualified. The game, however, was anything but lopsided in Italy’s favour: the Austrians maintained their discipline thanks to a strong midfield. And their captain, David Alaba, was, to use a cliché, everywhere on the pitch. Alaba is a Left Back in the same way that a Lamborghini is a car.
In the 32nd minute, Ciro Immobile had the fall at his feet. He looked to pass facing his own goal, then turned around, and with one speculative kick, hit the goalpost. His shot, from no less than 30 yards out, could have given Italy a lead. Instead, it turned out to be the closest that the Italians would get to scoring in regular time.
The Austrian team did not sit back, mind you. They thought that they had scored the winning goal only to be denied by the VAR. While offside decisions have become clearer with VAR, this one was debatable, to say the least. The game ebbed and flowed, but unlike Wales vs Denmark, neither Italy nor Austria dominated the match. However, given that Austria are ‘minnows’ compared to Italy who have won 3 World Cups, it was clear that Austria was improving to be the biggest challenge yet for Italy. At the end of regular time, it was the Italians who would be breathing a sigh of relief.
And Roberto Mancini, the Italian manager, must have told the Italians something they did not know. Four minutes after the start, they almost scored; five minutes later, they had. Italian left back, Spinazzola, one of Italy’s brightest players, cured towards Chiesa at the far post. Chiesa, who came on as a substitute, chest the ball down, took a touch to see off Hinteregger and a hard shot across Bachmann into the bottom left. A sensational finish by the Juventus player had broken the deadlock and finally broken Austria. And just before the end of the first half of extra time, Pessina had scored Italy’s second. With six minutes to go, Austria scored to make for a grandstand finish. But Italy prevailed, and they will play the winner between Belgium and Portugal.
The scorecard now read Italy 2 Austria 1, and anyone who watched the match knew how hard the Austrians made it for Italy.
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