Italy qualify for Round of 16 after another convincing win

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After their dominant display against Turkey in the tournament opener, many were probably left wondering if Italy are really that good, or if Turkey were being rated a bit too highly. Turkey were definitely disappointing against the Italians, but after another high-quality showing against a Swiss side that is typically hard to beat, Italy are now earning more praise as serious contenders for the 2020 Euros.

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It was an interesting start to the match, as it quickly became clear Switzerland would not be content with Italy having all of the possession like they did against Turkey. Early on, Giorgio Chiellini had a goal ruled out for handball and was soon after subbed off due to injury. With the game still goalless it seemed like it just might be Switzerland’s lucky day. Manuel Locatelli had other plans. The Sassuolo man started and finished a terrific goal just a couple minutes after seeing his captain leave the pitch. After a wonderful first-time pass on his weak foot to Domenico Berardi, Locatelli ran half of the pitch to Switzerland’s six-yard box, receiving the ball back from Berardi and slotting it home. It was a very fast buildup from Italy as Berardi took it all the way to the byline before dragging it into the path of the wide open Locatelli. Italy were able to use the space behind the Swiss wingbacks that just wasn’t there in the first half against Turkey. Like against Turkey, Italy focused their attack down the left where Leonardo Spinazzola made several dashes up the pitch, having a good effort on goal himself late in the half. Spinazzola’s advanced position allowed for Lorenzo Insigne to play closer to striker Ciro Immobile so that he wasn’t left isolated in the middle.

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Even though Switzerland had a fair amount of possession, they did not create any meaningful chances in the first half. Breel Embolo, who looked very sharp against Wales, struggled to get involved. He was unable to showcase his speed and strength against Italy’s veteran centre-backs which really could have been a mismatch in Switzerland’s favour. Wing-backs Ricardo Rodríguez and Kevin Mbabu were given much of the responsibility to start the Swiss attacks but the pair did not have much success with finding their forwards in the middle.

At half-time, Switzerland were looking for a spark with Mario Gavranović coming on for Haris Seferović who was very quiet in the first half. Similar to the match against Turkey, Italy were put under a bit more pressure to start the second half, with Switzerland pressing more and doing so higher up the pitch. Like against Turkey, Italy were able to use their quality in the midfield to work the ball out of their half and get a goal early in the second period. Locatelli was again the man to score after he was left with too much time to place his long-range effort into the net. After grabbing the all important second goal, head coach Roberto Mancini went for a more pragmatic approach to see out the rest of the match. Defender Rafael Toloi came on for Berardi as the shape of the team went from the usual 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2, or a 3-5-2 when in possession with Spinazzola further up. Italy ended their evening with Immobile getting the third, as his effort from outside the box squeaked past Yann Sommer.

After Italy’s first two matches, it is fair to say that their label as a “dark horse” heading into this tournament was a bit harsh, and that they maybe should have been considered as genuine contenders alongside the likes of France, England, and Portugal. Though their squad lacks the star power of those other nations, their cohesion and collectiveness have been insurmountably impressive so far. Each player seems to know their role in the unit, with individuals like Spinazzola and Locatelli stepping up and revealing their quality. Mancini now has the opportunity to rest his key players against Wales on the final match-day of Group A, before they face off against their next opponent in the round of 16. Gli Azzurri should be full of confidence now and believing that they have what it takes to go very far in this tournament!

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