The most important match of Euro 2016 group E witnessed an extremely package of surprise on the road to one of most inspirational performances in this tournament so far without the doubt. Italy cruised to a wonderful 2-0 win against the second team of FIFA World’s ranking and perhaps one of the tournament’s firm favorite, Belgium.
Antonio Conte’s men truly produced an incredible football to highest level of tactical masterpiece and strategic style efficiency all night to pull a huge upset to break a team packed with superbly talented squad and its rank of fantastic generation of European football nation. the most heated up arguments of recent months, suggesting the gradual decline of Italian football on the international stage might have been entitled to negative impact of country’s repetitive failure in previous major tournaments, but Italians amazingly embraced the depth of their structural identity to largely whipped out overwhelming patterns of risen fear of their total collapse- instead on the night they re-invented sudden promising hopes after leaving the pitch with sparking of joy and satisfaction. Belgium appeared to control the game with their superbly world class line up and fully talented players to impose their superiority to Italians, but their opponents massively underestimated them with consistent defensive pressing, an strategic balance of transition play and their energetic counter-attack effort, which would have characterized a complete mission of brilliant unity spirit and work ethic dedication. the famous back three central dimension of Juventus based-leaders, Leonardo Bonnuci, Chiellini and Barzagli emphatically commanded the confident and purpose factors to the rest of the team that was marshaled ultimately by team’s legend Gigi Buffon. two versatile full backs of Antonio Candreva and Matteo Darmain deployed across the back three, immensely aimed to intensify the pressing order off the ball against opponent’s possession approach to defend with five men and equally providing width to become wing-back at the time of switching to forward play, the ideal tactic that truly masterminded by Conte to its most vital efficacy and timely balanced at the end of both spectrum. the movement mostly would have eagerly organized the mobility of experienced Daniele De Rossi to control the pace of build-up from deep and allowing Giaccherini and Parola to instigate crucial off the ball runs to win spaces in transitions and linking with pushed up wing backs, soon Belgium’s central holding partnership of Witsel and Nianggolan have been stretched widely when they were joining attack further high up the line to sustain the circulation of constant short passing, the effort to increase the number of Belgian occupying the space for Hazard, De Bruyn and Felliani, as three players forming their untrack drift run of interchanging play; the superior feature of high prolific teams whom tend to control possession with creative instigators as it is the case of Belgium; the type of style nevertheless was their answer; in contrast virtually it originated with their backline’s suspected re-pressing response to opponent’s off the speedy break-away in transition and its fine impact; particularly because of Giaccherini’s lethal darting runs on the left flank to combine overlaps at his best. the fact proved very vital to Italian’s enthusiastic effort to counter Belgian’s exposed central defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweilerd in deep spaces.
Although Mark Wilmots deployed a flexible five men midfield with task of high mobility of three-rotated holding and central midfielders to win spaces quickly with more time to build-up across the line and dominating the passing build-up relaying on Hazard and De Bruyne’s fluid drifting movements, but the energetic presence of Candreva and Darmain as pure direct runners on the flanks with balanced shape of splitting the flanks in streaming forward as wing-backs and tracking back to press as regular Full-backs had significantly challenged Belgian’s full back to struggle initiating play out wide and often finding themselves caught to gaps high in their own half. the consistent pressing effort of Italians to track spaces forced Witsel and Nianggolan desperately going around the channels to link up with attackers without consistent rhythm in being limited pace across Italian defense. Belgian’s several short linked up passes faced slim chance of causing the concentration of back three, but they had the first chance inside the 10th minutes, Witsel surged forward to send a diognol ball over the box for Lukaku turning a first header before Fellaini directed his flick to set Nianggolan as he smacked a fierce long range effort to drew an excellent diving save from Buffon. with more spaces offered to Italian’s versatile deeper players off the pressing in center of the field, their center backs switching across the line to define a role of deep lying passer and it was the incredible pathway to their first goal. Bonucci picked up a pass wide open in the midfield, looking up and dinked a perfect half-way line ball over head of defense with Giaccherini tucked in behind Alderweilerd unmark to lay down the ball with a neat touch to his feet before firing even better right footed shot into bottom corner and suddenly lifted Italy’s bench into a great cheer and shocked Mark Vilmots. it was awakening call for the Red Devils as they rapidly pushed high to exchange quick passes for creating break-through movements but Azzuri’s defense acted unbreakable. with more sense of urgency Belgium camped in Italy’s half as Hazard and De Bruyn fiercely looking to combine slick interplay balls and over-laps runs inside-out of opponents as two play-makers constantly switching spontaneous pass and changing the run to link with Lukaku while Felliani joining them to further involve, but Everton striker lacked real agility to control their passes and sluggishly throwing chances away in the final third. Rigi replaced him after hour mark to add more intensity to his team’s end-product balls, while Mertens also came in for Naingolan to spark flash of creativity and crafty combination with hazard and Vermaleah on the right and Hazard shifted centrally, it seemingly intensified their attack as Mertens dazzled to beat Bazagly on the edge of corner but his sharp wide balls past everyone. in the 74 minutes Hazard neat turn linked up with De Bruyn overlap as he picked Rigi but his attempted shot deflected off defense and wasted again. the introduction of Yanik Ferreira Carrasco signaled the superbly ambitious plan from Wilmots to send all his creative forces and they came really close to equalizer. Atletico’s winger combined a neat pass to De Bruyn on the right and his cross first had Rigi to miss connecting with the header before Fellaini lost his feet to finish it when suddenly balled fallen to him. Conte has indicated his last glimpse of coaching skills by bringing Ciro Immobli and Thiago Motta as the latter provided more deft to defense and the striker sparked timely pace to hammer Belgians just when Italy was under intense pressure on the brink of stoppage time. with witsel and Vermaelen pushing over the line to join attack left their deeper spaces exposed to counter and after series of challenging tackles in the midfield, Immobile picked up a ball and burst forward centrally to offered more teammates to switch the run across Belgium defense before turning a pass to Candreva at the right, he paused firmly and looked up to hit a precise pint-point cross inside the box and Graziano Pelle fired a half scissor volley shot as the ball spins in the air into the underside of the net and sparked an amazing celebration on their bench, left opponents in furious of disappointment.
despite all the recent criticism of rating Italians as the latest “declined-football nation” which entitled them to serious level of pessimism in calling their squad as the modest ever going to major tournament, this victory envisioned an entirely different scenario about the nature of Conte’s side and instead sparked a wonderful tactical renovation and delightful enthusiasm to their style, bringing lots of hope back to light and marked their greatest start to a major competition since 2006 world cup. they produced a solid and resilient defensive strategy, formidable midfield play and sharp counter-attacking ability with young players at their disposal.