Italy were put through the wringer by Austria, but managed to reach the Euro 2020 quarterfinals after winning 2-1 as Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina scored in extra-time at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday. The two sides were locked 0-0 after 90 minutes, but Chiesa and Pessina came off the bench to puncture the Austrian tempo. Italy, who remain unbeaten in 31 games, will now face either Belgium or defending champions Portugal on Friday.
The game could have slipped out of the Azzurri's hands. In the 65th minute, a Marko Arnautovic goal was denied by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), as he was ruled to be marginally offside. Austria, who played their first ever knockout game in the European Championship on Sunday, did manage to score in the 114th minute as Sasa Kalajdzic headed the ball in from a corner. Kalajdzic's goal ended the Azzurri's streak of 11 international matches without conceding.
“I'm happy with the victory – I think we played as a real team tonight. We defended all together when we needed to. After 90 minutes, we said that we just had to improve the quality of the final passes and finally the goals arrived in extra time,” Italy defender Leonardo Spinazzola, who got the Star of the Match trophy for some exceptional passing, said after the match.
Austria last played in the knockouts of a major international tournament at the 1954 World Cup. “It's not easy to put that into words. We can be proud of ourselves, Austria can be proud of us. We gave everything but in the end we weren't rewarded for our performance. That's really tough to take,” Austria captain David Alaba said after the game.
Denmark maul Wales
Riding on a Kasper Dolberg brace, Denmark marched into the quarterfinals for the first time in 17 years, beating Wales 4-0 at the Amsterdam Arena on Saturday. The Dragons started with positive intent, with Gareth Bale threatening to score in the early stages of the game, but Dolberg turned the tables on Robert Page’s side by putting the Danes ahead in the 27th minute. The rest of the goals followed as Denmark clipped Bale and Aaron Ramsey's wings with tactical changes in their defence. By firing another one in the 48th minute, Dolberg became the Danish player to score twice in a Euro knockout game since Henrik Larsen in the semi-finals versus Netherlands in 1992.
“It's completely crazy. I actually don't know how I feel. This is total madness. It's surreal. It was here [at the Johan Cruijff ArenA] where it all started for me, and to play here again in this setting was insane,” said Dolberg, who was adjudged Star of the Match.
The other two goals came late in the game via Joakim Mhaele and Martin Braithwaite, as the Dragons felt increasingly helpless.
Hjulmand must be pinching himself with the way his side have turned things around this edition. “It's hard to believe that this is reality. I admire the boys and the fact we can keep fighting. No matter who plays, they play very well. The guys are true warriors,” the Denmark coach said after the match.
The Euro 2016 semi-finals are now heading home, and Bale agrees that his side lost momentum as the game progressed. “It's not how we wanted the game to go. From our point of view we started very well, and then the game changed. We tried to play in the second half but made a mistake to concede, which killed the momentum on our side,” he said.
Denmark next play the Netherlands or Czech Republic in Baku on July 3.
Netherlands vs Czech Republic (9:30 pm IST, Sunday)
Venue: Ferenc Puskas Stadium
Belgium vs Portugal (12:30 am IST, Monday)
Venue: Estadio La Cartuja de Sevilla