Belgium are the number 1 team in the world according to the FIFA Ranking and one cannot doubt their abilities. In each and every position they possess great players. This Belgium unit is considered as the Golden Generation after that era of Enzo Scifo and was expected to win the title, but as usual, they ended up being the underachievers. It was Italy who stormed through to the semifinals in style.

The match demanded high-quality football and neither Italy nor Belgium decided to dish out a damp squib, rather, both the teams were vividly attacking.

Belgium go the ball rolling at the Allianz Arena and they were on the front foot immediately – Kevin de Bruyne found Romelu Lukaku down the inside-left channel. Lukaku burst into the box but could not get a shot away – the start indicated an electrifying 45 minutes and it lived up the billing.

Belgium have started fast. They won the first corner of the game, down the left, Lukaku again made his presence felt.

De Bruyne swung it in and Chiellini headed clear.

A long ball down the middle released Lukaku, who sent a rising rasper over the bar from 25 yards.

The flag then went up, correctly, for offside.

Belgium had flown out of the blocks.

Italy settled and got back their rhythm.

Lorenzo Insigne, deep on the left, found Chiesa to the right of the Belgium goal with a raking diagonal pass. Chiesa did extremely well to keep it in play and hooked into the centre, but could only waft into the arms of Thibaut Courtois.

The replacement for Eden Hazard – the 19-year-old Rennes forward Jeremy Doku – dribbled down the left and rolled harmlessly infield, where Donnarumma gathered the ball.

Italy were pressing higher and unsettled the Red Devils.

Insigne swung one low and Chiellini flicked it on, towards the far post.

Di Lorenzo helped and Bonucci chest into the bottom left.

But VAR ruled out that goal as offside.

Italy advance forward.

Di Lorenzo made a good run down the right and was crudely blocked by Hazard.

Italy earned a free-kick and they took it quickly.

Ciro Immobile went down, wanting a penalty. He’s not getting one. Belgium only half clear. Verratti, to the right of the D-box, fed Nicolo Barella down the channel. Barella squawk through a gap, past three at once, and buried a shot across Courtois and into the bottom left!

What a goal and it was the result of the high press that Italy have been doing throughout the tournament.

Belgium responded through Thomas Meunier, who romped down the right and whipped in a low cross that deflected off Jorginho and nearly whistled into the bottom right of the Italy goal.

Donnarumma probably had that covered, but even so.

Then Insigne dribbled down the left. He cut inside, past Tielemans with ease, then aimed a power curler towards the top right – Courtois was at full strength but had no chance.

Outstanding goal!

Another peach!

Doku drove down the left and entered the Italian box. He got just ahead of Di Lorenzo, who shoved him in the small of the back and the referee points to the spot!

VAR had a good look at the decision, but the penalty stood and Lukau reduced the deficit from the penalty spot.

In the second half, Italy knew how fearsome Belgium would be and thus, maintained its defensive solidity.

The Italian dominance at the defence and midfield never let Belgium settle until Lukaku broke through after an hour mark.

Doku drove down the left, drifted infield, and slipped De Bruyne free down the channel. He crossed towards Lukaku at the far post. He had just got to trundle home from a couple of yards but could not force the ball past Leonardo Spinazzola, who deflected the ball out for a corner.

It was a great defending from one of the best players of the tournament, but the Italian should never have been allowed to make the block.

Doku went at Di Lorenzo again down the left. Di Lorenzo, perhaps understandably, didn’t fancy engaging too much. Doku fired low to the near post, in the hope of finding Lukaku, but Donnarumma got down well to smother.

Vermaelen slid into Insigne out on the left. The resulting free-kick was sent towards Chiesa on the right flank. Chiesa returned it to the left. Immobile went for the bicycle spectacular, but it was cleared by Belgium.

Lukaku rolled a pass across the face of the Italian box to tee up De Bruyne. The resulting shot was blocked. Lukaku tried again. That was blocked too, and the ball ballooned softly into the arms of Donnarumma.

In the meantime, Spinazzola injured his hamstring and had to be stretched out of the field and certainly, Roberto Mancini was not happy with that. He had lost a genuine performer.

But the show must go on.

Doku dropped a shoulder to shift infield from the left touchline and then after a couple of jinks and wonderful dribble, and he nearly concluded it in memorable style, aiming for the top right, but the ball went just a bit too high, and an inch or two wide.

Doku dribbled in from the left again, entering the box and almost demanding to be fouled. Jorginho rather cheekily whipped the ball off his toe – a perfectly timed challenge and one that required ice in the veins.


And that was it – the referee blew the final whistle and Italy, deservingly, advance to the semifinals.

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