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Italy and Belgium light up the Euro 2020 quarter-finals

The Azzurri have continued to thrive under manager Roberto Mancini, himself a gifted forward who seems to have instilled his philosophy into a side keen to take the game to even the most talented opposition.

Italy’s relentless pressure had Belgium on the ropes after they fell 2-0 behind to a Nicolo Barella strike and a Lorenzo Insigne curler before Romelu Lukaku pulled one back with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

The Italians celebrate Nicolo Barella’s opening goal against Belgium.

The Italians celebrate Nicolo Barella’s opening goal against Belgium.Credit:AP

But instead of parking the bus, as many previous generations of Italians would have done, Mancini’s revamped side kept attacking in search of a third goal to kill the game off.

Belgium’s top scorer Lukaku was stifled by Italy’s central defensive duo of 36-year old Giorgio Chiellini and 34-year-old Leonardo Bonucci, whose experience was everywhere to be seen as they also showed the energy levels of youngsters.

With Lukaku misfiring in the second half as he spurned a gilt-edged chance to equalise, it was 19-year-old forward Jeremy Doku who carried Belgium’s effort with electrifying pace and close control.

Having tormented his markers on the left flank all evening, Doku won Belgium’s penalty and nearly scored the goal of the tournament after a dazzling solo run that a 19-year old Cristiano Ronaldo would have been proud of.

With five wins in a row under their belt at the finals, Italy will head into the clash with Spain confident of reaching their second Euro showpiece in the last three tournaments, having lost 4-0 to the Spaniards in their 2012 showdown.

Spain advanced 3-1 on penalties after a 1-1 deadlock against a 10-man Switzerland.

Italy have amassed 11 goals at Euro 2020, their record in a single European Championship surpassed on the big stage only by the 12 they netted in winning the 2006 World Cup, and again they seem to have all the ingredients for a title charge.

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