Premier League pair give Italy victory – highlights & report

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Euro 2016: Belgium 0-2 Italy highlights

Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle scored as Italy began their Euro 2016 campaign with victory over much-fancied Belgium in Lyon.

Sunderland’s Giaccherini slotted home in the first half after collecting Leonardo Bonucci’s superb long pass.

Southampton’s Pelle sealed the win in injury time with an emphatic volley following an incisive break.

Belgium were very disappointing, with Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi wasteful in front of goal.

Everton forward Lukaku curled over from the edge of the box with just the keeper to beat while Liverpool’s Origi missed two opportunities to head his side level.

A triumph of team over individuals

Emanuele Giaccherini celebrates with the bench<!–

Emanuele Giaccherini scored his first goal for Italy since November 2013

Before the tournament began some pundits condemned this Italy squad for a lack of quality, and even coach Antonio Conte said: “It isn’t a good time for our football.”

The soon-to-be-Chelsea boss added: “It’s important the squad has a good spirit. I work a lot at this.”

On the evidence of this game, that is not the only thing he has worked at.

Italy’s triumph was a result of superior organisation and discipline against 11 Belgian individuals who appear to possess, on paper at least, the greater talent.

Both sides now face games against the Republic of Ireland and Sweden, who drew 1-1 in the Group E opener earlier on Monday.

With 16 of 24 teams progressing from the group stage, Italy took a huge step towards advancing with victory against their likeliest challengers.

The immovable object

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Graziano Pelle volley seals Italy win

Italy have won this competition once, in 1968, and finished runners-up twice – most recently in 2012, when they were demolished 4-0 by Spain in the final.

While the current Azzurri side went unbeaten through qualifying, winning seven of their 10 matches, they compare unfavourably with the side of four years ago, lacking the calm, creative brilliance of Andrea Pirlo in midfield and an attacking spearhead to adequately replace a faded Mario Balotelli.

What they do have is a meticulous and tactically astute coach in the Chelsea-bound Conte and a stubborn Juventus-centric defence.

Emanuele Giaccherini goal<!–

The opening goal was as indebted to the pass from Leonardo Bonucci (19) as the finish from Emanuele Giaccherini (23)

Such a foundation allowed them to limit and frustrate Belgium, leaving them vulnerable to one piece of ruthless counter-attacking brilliance – which Bonucci’s 50-yard, defence-splitting pass and Giaccherini’s cool finish provided.

The second half would have been more comfortable for Italy had a second goal been scored from an unmarked position by Pelle, who also had a second header saved by Thibaut Courtois after the break.

However, Conte’s imperious rearguard held firm before Pelle volleyed home a neat chipped cross from Antonio Candreva.

The irresistible force?

Belgium shots<!–

Belgium had 18 shots against Italy – only three were on target (green), with six off target (red) and nine blocked (yellow)

Despite only having qualified for one major tournament in the past 14 years, Belgium came to France as Europe’s top-ranked side and one of the favourites to triumph in Paris on 10 July.

Their status is built around the attacking potential and club-forged reputation of individuals such as Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Lukaku, as opposed to consistent evidence of a cohesive international team.

However, the Red Devils did little to suggest they are ready to convert this promise into something concrete on the big stage.

They were pedestrian in the first half, failing to get in behind the Italian backline, with De Bruyne particularly isolated.

They upped the speed after the break but still struggled to test Gianluigi Buffon, with Lukaku curling over a good chance and substitute Origi spurning two glorious headed opportunities.

Equally as worrying for Belgium was the performance of their defence.

Already without the injured Vincent Kompany, they looked particularly vulnerable with Jan Vertonghen deployed at left-back instead of alongside his Tottenham colleague Toby Alderweireld in the centre.

Man of the match – Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)

Leonardo Bonucci<!–

Leonardo Bonucci was a rock at the heart of the Italian defence and a potent attacking weapon, as his pass for the opening goal illustrated

What they said

Italy midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini: “We all had to help each other and aim, when we had the ball, to hurt them. This is what the coach asked of us. I’m happy because I and all of the others in this group, each time we put this shirt on, we know we’ve got the whole of Italy with us.

“Our defence was fantastic and I think we have the best defence in the Euros.

“Against Sweden, it’s going to be difficult. Maybe we’ll have less defending to do than against Belgium, but it’s going to be tight and we’re going to struggle to find gaps.”

BBC pundit and former Italy striker Gianluca Vialli: “I don’t want to brag, but we were almost perfect. We dominated the game, we showed desire and commitment and we played like a team. We had a perfect game plan.”

BBC pundit and ex-England defender Rio Ferdinand: “That was a perfect example of one playing like a team, the other like a group of individuals. What was so impressive is the way they can go from defence to attack so quickly.”

The stats you need to know

Thibaut Courtois<!–

  • Italy have kept three clean sheets in a row for the first time since June 2013.
  • They have kept more clean sheets at the Euros than any other team (17).
  • Italy are unbeaten in their four games with Belgium at major tournaments (W3 D1).
  • Belgium have lost six of their past eight games in the European Championship (W2).
  • Italy’s starting XI v Belgium is the oldest of any country in the history of the European Championship (31 years 169 days).
  • Buffon became the oldest player to represent Italy at the Euros (38 years 136 days) and the sixth-oldest overall to appear at the tournament. It was his 14th game at the European Championship with Italy, also a record for a player.

What’s next?

Italy face Sweden in Toulouse at 14:00 BST on Friday with Belgium taking on the Republic of Ireland in Bordeaux at 14:00 the following day.

Live Text

Match ends, Belgium 0, Italy 2.

Second Half ends, Belgium 0, Italy 2.

Goal! Belgium 0, Italy 2. Graziano Pellè (Italy) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Antonio Candreva.

Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) is shown the yellow card.

Foul by Dries Mertens (Belgium).

Marco Parolo (Italy) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Corner, Belgium. Conceded by Mattia De Sciglio.

Attempt saved. Marco Parolo (Italy) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.

Corner, Italy. Conceded by Divock Origi.

Corner, Italy. Conceded by Thibaut Courtois.

Attempt saved. Ciro Immobile (Italy) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.

Thiago Motta (Italy) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Eden Hazard (Belgium) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Thiago Motta (Italy).

Eden Hazard (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Thiago Motta (Italy).

Attempt missed. Divock Origi (Belgium) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Kevin De Bruyne with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Belgium. Conceded by Mattia De Sciglio.

Eden Hazard (Belgium) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Emanuele Giaccherini (Italy).

Corner, Belgium. Conceded by Graziano Pellè.

Attempt blocked. Dries Mertens (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Marouane Fellaini.

Attempt blocked. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Eden Hazard.

Attempt blocked. Dries Mertens (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Eden Hazard.

Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Ciro Immobile (Italy).

Substitution, Italy. Thiago Motta replaces Daniele De Rossi.

Leonardo Bonucci (Italy) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Divock Origi (Belgium) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Leonardo Bonucci (Italy).

Attempt blocked. Axel Witsel (Belgium) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Substitution, Belgium. Yannick Carrasco replaces Laurent Ciman.

Substitution, Italy. Ciro Immobile replaces Éder.

Éder (Italy) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Dries Mertens (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Éder (Italy).

Corner, Italy. Conceded by Laurent Ciman.

Attempt blocked. Emanuele Giaccherini (Italy) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Marco Parolo.

Substitution, Belgium. Divock Origi replaces Romelu Lukaku.

Foul by Dries Mertens (Belgium).

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