Italy needed extra time to beat Austria 2-1 in the round of 16 at Euro 2020, surpassing its own unbeaten run of 30 games in 1939 and qualifying for the quarter-finals of the tournament.
The stalemate was broken in the 95th minute when substitute Federico Chiesa made a superb left footed attack into the bottom left corner before substitute Matteo Pessina found the other corner 105 minutes into the game to extend Azzurri’s lead.
An agile header from Austrian Sasa Kalajdzic cut the deficit in half, but it wasn’t enough as the Italians remained confident and composed while continuing to impress.
Saturday’s win at Wembley Stadium in London also means Italy has now won its last 12 consecutive games. It was also Italy’s 31st consecutive game without defeat, surpassing the record of 30 the team had set under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.
Italy now advances to the quarterfinals where they will face the winner of number 1 ranked Belgium or reigning champions Portugal. Both sides will be the biggest challenge the Italians have faced so far in this tournament, with the last time losing a match to Portugal in September 2018.
“Austria played well but we had our chances and made a few good goals,” said Chiesa afterwards. “I think we deserve to continue. We are a group of 26 players and we are all eager to help the team win matches.
This is what made the difference tonight.” As in Rome Despite the reduced crowd capacity at Wembley, the roar of the Azzurri fans as the players emerged and the impassioned signing of the national anthem was as if the team were playing in Rome.
Due to current guidelines, arrivals from Italy cannot travel to the UK without undergoing a mandatory quarantine period. But despite the match being held in London, Roberto Mancini’s side would certainly have felt like they were playing in front of their home crowd.
Austria played in its first-ever knockout match at the European Championship in its third appearance at the tournament. It was also the first major tournament in which Austria has moved beyond the first group stage since the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain.
Lack of experience at this stage was not apparent during the first 90 minutes as Austria executed a decisive tactical plan, defended well and took advantage of its opportunities in counter-attack.
Striker Ciro Immobile, however, came closest to Italy in the first half by hitting the post from outside the penalty area with a resounding strike.
Austria almost took an unlikely victory 65 minutes into the game, but a header by Marko Arnautovic was ruled out by the video assistant referee for offside.
In the extra time, however, the speed and intensity of the Italians was too much for Austria to comprehend. Austrian goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann did everything he could to keep his team within reach of the quarter-finals, but was left helpless with the Italians’ two near-perfect attacks.
It was two substitutes who caused the damage for Italy. Chiesa’s left foot broke the stalemate late in the day, before Pessina extended the lead with his own left foot.
Pessina was a late addition to the Italian squad following the withdrawal of the injured Stefano Sensi and has now scored two goals in two games at the tournament.
Kalajdzic’s late header proved only a consolation for the Austrians, but was the first goal the Italians had conceded at Euro 2020. In the end, it was heartbreak for Austria, who performed above expectations and returned home with their heads held high.
“You saw for more than 120 minutes that it was a very mature performance,” Austria head coach Franco Foda said afterwards. “Now it’s about supporting that when we return in September. You saw that the team was hungry and had a good mind and a good plan.
From September we have to prepare as best we can because we want to go to [ FIFA ] World Cup in Qatar.” Italy continues to prove to its opponents why it is a contender to win the tournament and lift its first European crown since 1968.