Italy set a new unbeaten record of 31 games as they qualified for the Euro quarter-finals with a 2-1 extra-time win over Austria at Wembley on Saturday.
Substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina netted in style on 95 and 105 minutes as Roberto Mancini’s unusually laboured side set up a meeting with Belgium or Portugal, who play on Sunday. Sasa
Kalajdzic’s diving header made for a nervy final six minutes.
Italy’s unbeaten record beats their previous best set in the 1930s under double World Cup-winning coach Vittorio Pozzo. They also beat former Italy goalkeeper Dino Zoff’s record of not conceding in 1,143 minutes between 1972 and 1974.
“We have brought it home and we deserved it…even if we conceded a goal which we shouldn’t have,” Mancini told reporters.
“We’ve won it thanks to the players who came on with the right mentality.”
Kalajdzic’s late extra-time goal was the first they have conceded in 12 games, including their three group stage wins.
Austria, in their first ever Euro knockout game, initially closed down the spaces well and almost took the lead when Marko Arnautovic had a second-half header chalked off for a tight offside.
“It is not just the cruellest night of my career, it is one of the cruellest in Austrian football history,” Kalajdzic said.
“The win was not deserved by Italy. We were equal to them.”
Mancini went with Marco Verratti in midfield rather than Manuel Locatelli while centre back Giorgio Chiellini again missed out after a hamstring problem, with Francesco Acerbi filling in.
Austria duo Martin Hinteregger and Florian Grillitsch were fit to play after groin injuries.
Italy had the better of the first half as expected, with Nicolo Barella being denied by Daniel Bachmann’s foot and Ciro Immobile striking the woodwork from distance.
Arnautovic had a rare opening for Austria but fired over.
Austria coach Franco Foda was annoyed at the game being played in London given travel restrictions for most fans based outside Britain.
But those inside Wembley created a decent atmosphere, although with more Italians resident in London than Austrians, the Azzurri had the edge among the sparsely-spread supporters.
Italy, now unbeaten in 14 games against Austria, needed more urgency after the break but it was their opponents who initially had the best chances of the second period – David Alaba bending a free-kick just wide and Marcel Sabitzer going close.
Arnautovic then headed in from David Alaba’s flick-on but he was adjudged to be just offside on video review.
Italy were in a slumber so Mancini made four changes but the game lurched into extra-time.
One of those substitutes, Chiesa, then expertly controlled an awkward cross, cut inside and shot into the far corner five minutes into the extra period.
Lorenzo Insigne almost doubled the lead with a free-kick before Pessina, another substitute, kept his calm after a scramble in the box and finished with aplomb.
Austria reacted and had two good opportunities before substitute
Kalajdzic cleverly headed in a corner at the near post.
Match favourites Italy progressed, but not in the manner they would have wished with number-one ranked Belgium or defending champions Portugal up next in Munich on Friday.
Reuters Austria’s goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann (front L) concedes Italy’s 1-0 lead during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 soccer match between Italy and Austria in London, Britain, 26 June 2021. EPA-EFE/Carl Recine / POOL