Italy narrowly overcame Belgium in one of the most thrilling games of Euro 2020 to book a date with Spain in the semifinals.
All three goals in the Azzurri’s 2-1 came in the first half, with brilliant strikes from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne opening up a two-goal lead. However, the deficit was halved just moments later after Romelu Lukaku converted from the penalty spot following a clumsy foul from Giovanni Di Lorenzo on teenager Jeremy Doku, who was a standout performer among some of the Belgium’s more established stars. Lukaku had two great opportunities to equalize in the second half, but some last-gasp Italian defending prevented the Inter Milan forward from getting a clean look at goal. Italy played with its back to the wall for much of the game, but Belgium’s lack of cutting edge up front meant that its veteran central defensive pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci was rarely troubled.
Belgium came into this tournament with lofty expectations, with many labeling Euro 2020 as the last chance for the country’s aging ‘golden generation’ to win some silverware. The Red Devils had certainly lived up to hype so far, winning all three of its group games before efficiently, if not emphatically, dispatching defending champion Portugal in the last 16. Conversely, few had expected Italy to shine as bright as it has at Euro 2020. The boundless energy of the likes of Leonardo Spinazzola and Manuel Locatelli have given this team an exciting attacking edge, while the return of Marco Verratti from injury has given the midfield increased control. Belgium started this match — perhaps as expected — on the front foot, with Lukaku finding space in behind the Italian defense on two occasions early on. The chances came to nothing, but it was a sign of things to come as Belgium dominated the opening half hour.