Austria are tough and those who faced them, are well aware of this. They build up on defensive solidity and their holding midfielders would choke the life out of you – Great teams of the past like Brazil, Germany, Holland, England or the former USSR had experienced such and when Italy met Austria at Rome in their opening group match of the World Cup 1990 – Austria almost came close to halt the dream team.

Italy made one of the most impactful substitutions that would become a story for all to read enjoy – Totto Schilacci was brought on in place of the unimpressive Carnevalli and then Gianluca Vialli produced an inch-perfect cross at the centre of the Austrian penalty area where Schillaci headed the ball home. Schillaci would become the God of Italia 90 until that heartbreak at Napoli.

The scenario was similar at Wembley where the Azzurri were pushed to the limits by Austria yet again in the Round of 16 encounters of the Euro 2020. Federico Chiesa walked out onto the Wembley pitch with six minutes of normal time remaining and this tight, fretful encounter still goalless – like Totto, he broke the deadlock and this time, it was during the extra-time.

And, yet, again, the Azzurri found the way and survived the Austrian scare.

The trans-Alpine derby carries a bit of a rough history – Italy’s national anthem was at one time banned in Italy for being too anti-Austrian, the legacy of Habsburg imperial power in the region.

 Austria knew that they are not the favourites, but still, regrouped and decided to fight till the end.

Xaver Schlager was a busy, bruising presence in central midfield and Italy took a moment to settle.

Mancini had retained Marco Verratti in midfield but Italy’s system carried no real mystery with the 4-3-3 formation including a marauding full-back presence on the left and well-drilled pressing.

Austria were calm in possession early on and quick to cover on the flanks. Leonardo Spinazzola made one early dash down the flank, and another on 10 minutes that ended with a shot into the side netting.

Italy’s first shot at goal came from that side, Spinazzola cantering off once again and threading a pass back for Nicolo Barella, whose low shot was blocked by a scrambling Bachmann.

With 31 minutes gone Ciro Immobile turned and pinged a wonderful dipping shot onto the top of the post. By the break, Italy had mustered 11 attempts at goal to Austria’s one. The Italian domination was evident, but the finishing was hugely missing.

Austria started the second half brightly, keeping the ball, then forcing a free-kick as Giovanni Di Lorenzo was booked for a foul right on the edge of the Italy box. David Alaba spun the ball over the wall but couldn’t make it drop.

Austria had already nailed down the threat of Italy’s left flank and gradually began to assert, and on 64 minutes seemed to have taken the lead, thanks to a fine headed finish from Arnautovic.

It was ruled out by VAR for offside. Italy had looked utterly crushed walking back for the kick-off.

As the 90 minutes ticked away it was all Austria for a while Marcel Sabitzer spinning and twirling and providing the link for a series of fluent attacks.

The final whistle should have brought a sigh of relief among the Italian players because Austria were posing a threat and could have instilled heartbreak.

Mancini was tensed but composed and plotted his plans – rallied his men.

Italy found a saviour in the form of Chiesa.

Chiesa’s first real intent was to burst through on the right and fire in a low shot but moments later, with the clock ticking over to 94 minutes, he did something startling, creeping in behind on that same flank, controlling a high ball with his head and shoulder, skipping inside Martin Hinteregger, then absolutely spanking his shot back across the goal and into the corner.

It was a great, great goal to calm down the nerves.

Ten minutes later Matteo Pessina added a second, picking up a loose ball after a corner and turning to clip a wonderfully executed shot across Daniel Bachmann and into the other corner.

But there was still time for a late alarm as Sasa Kalajdzic pulled a goal back for Austria – the first Italy have conceded since October 2020.

Italy made it through to the quarterfinals and set a new national record after extending their unbeaten run to 31.

Roberto Mancini’s side equalled the record that has stood since 1939 with a 1-0 win over Wales in their final group game last weekend but surpassed it last night.

Mancini’s side have broken a record that has stood for 82 years.

Vittorio Pozzo was the coach as Italy went four years without defeat between October 1935 and July 1939.

In that time they won their second consecutive World Cup and won the gold medal in the Olympics in 1936.

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Italy have lost just two matches since Mancini took charge in May 2018, and the last team to get the better of them was Portugal in a Nations League match in September of that year.

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