London: Italy defeated stubborn Austria 2-1 in overtime at Wembley last night to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 as Denmark came out on top by hammering Wales 4-0.
Roberto Mancini’s side, which received rave reviews after cruising through the group stage, had to work hard for their victory and had to thank super substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina.
The victory means Italy has now set a new record of 31 games unbeaten, surpassing the mark set under two-time World Cup-winning coach Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.
Italian fans gave a catchy rendition of their national anthem and were the most enterprising team in the first half, but Austria came back in force after the break and cursed a VAR decision to rule out a goal for Marko Arnautovic 20 minutes after the start of the second half.
Despite several attempts on goal from both sides, they were stuck at 0-0 after 90 minutes in London.
But Chiesa made a crucial breakthrough five minutes into extra time and another goal from Pessina gave Italy a two-goal cushion.
Austria’s Sasa Kalajdzic has one more goal but Italy is advancing and will face the winners of today’s game between Belgium and defending title-holders Portugal.
Mancini, who 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 few goals, then after the break we had a physical crash,” he told Italian public broadcaster RAI.
“We won thanks to the players who came in with the right frame of mind and solved the situation. I knew it would be tough, maybe even harder than in the quarterfinals. “