Side register last-eight berth with extra-time 2-1 win against Austria
Italy coach Roberto Mancini believes that his side should be prepared for a ‘hard’ quarterfinals after overcoming stubborn Austria 2-1 in extra-time in the round-of-16 clash at Wembley on Saturday.
The winning side, who earned rave reviews after their cruise through the group phase, were made to work hard for their win and had super subs Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina to thank.
The victory means Italy have now set a new record of 31 matches unbeaten, surpassing the mark set under two-time World Cup-winning coach Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.
Italy’s fans gave a rousing rendition of their national anthem and were the more enterprising team in the first half but Austria came back strongly after the break and cursed a VAR decision to rule out a goal for Marko Arnautovic 20 minutes into the second half.
Despite multiple attempts on goal from both sides, they were locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes in London.
But Chiesa made the crucial breakthrough five minutes into extra-time and another goal from Pessina gave Italy a two-goal cushion.
There was still time for late drama when Austria’s Sasa Kalajdzic pulled a goal back but Italy progress and will play the winners of Sunday’s tie between Belgium and holders Portugal.
Mancini, who has rebuilt the Azzurri after their humiliating failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, said his side “deserved” the result.
“In the first half we could have scored a couple of goals and then after the break we dropped off physically,” he told Italy’s public broadcaster RAI. “We won thanks to the players who came on with the right mindset and resolved the situation. I knew it would be hard, maybe even more so than in the quarter-finals.”
Italy will now face the winner of the Belgium and Portugal game in the last-eight fixture.