E.In the end, there were still delicacies for the German football fans who were not spoiled by their national team at the European Championship. Two of the world’s best teams were present on Friday evening in the Munich arena in front of 13,000 spectators: Belgium, number one in the world, and Italy in seventh place fought for qualification for the semi-finals, after Germany, the 2014 world champions, played a mousy appearance against England for three days was already eliminated in the round of 16 after a 2-0 defeat, and coach Joachim Löw has taken the long-announced farewell to his team.
The stage in the FC Bayern Munich stadium now belonged to the Squadra Azzurra, who had previously been undefeated in 31 games, and the Red Devils, who had only been defeated once in the past 27 matches and who wanted to realize their dream of their first big title at this tournament.
Roberto Martinez, the Spanish coach of the Walloons and Flemings from the Golden Generation, expected “a fantastic 50:50 game” at the showdown of two top teams. And he was right. Both teams confirmed their class and offered a breathtaking duel, at the end of which the slightly better team won 2-1: Italy. Barella (34th minute) and Insigne (44th) scored the goals for the strongest offensive team in the tournament with eleven goals. Lukaku shortened to 1: 2 with a penalty kick (45th + 2).
While the journey for the new title favorites Italy continues this Tuesday in the semi-finals in London against the great football power Spain, Belgium’s team failed again shortly before the goal. The Belgians could not celebrate more than fourth place at the 2018 World Cup with their great players.
The Belgians were initially delighted that their star conductor Kevin De Bruyne had recovered reasonably well from his ankle injury in the hard-fought 1-0 win over defending champions Portugal. For the striker icon Eden Hazard, who also left the pitch early with a muscular injury, there was not enough time for a quick healing. On the other hand, the 36-year-old captain Chiellini, who was injured in the 3-0 win over Turkey at the beginning, returned and formed the central defense of the attack-trimmed Italian team with his two-year-old colleague Bonucci.
The selection of coach Roberto Mancini had scored nine goals in the first four appearances in this European Championship, one less the Belgians, who had secured the success against Portugal mainly through their concentrated defenses. The Italians, who had previously been victorious twelve times in a row, had tormented their way through the round of the last sixteen after enthusiastic performances in the group games and only defeated the underdog Austria 2-1 in extra time. “We had to suffer,” Mancini admitted.
And this time? Both teams played football at a spectacular level as they pleased. While the Belgians lived mainly from De Bruyne’s flashes of inspiration, who put Donnarumma to the test after a solo (22nd) and put Lukaku in the shooting position when the Italian goalkeeper had to intervene again (26th), Italy shone collectively with its stormy Position game with mostly five players who felt they belonged to the attack department. Bonucci’s goal from an offside position after Insignes free kick (13th) was the signal for more. Then the players from the former Catenaccio country capitalized on their playful dominance in a remarkable way. After Vertonghen’s unsuccessful defense attempt, Barella transferred three Belgians and slipped the ball into the net to make it 1-0. The enchanting left wing insignia, which Tielemans could not stop repeatedly, scored with an artificial shot to make it 2-0. Fortunately for Belgium, the often insecure Slovenian referee Vincic decided on a penalty after a physical duel plus mini-push between right-back Di Lorenzo and striker Doku. An opportunity that Lukaku didn’t miss on his fourth goal. The viewers in Munich and many millions on the screens were spoiled by two outstanding teams until the break.
Belgium was then back in the game and challenged not to let its attacking moves shine through De Bruyne’s genius alone, especially since the circles of the Manchester City gambler were noticeably narrowed by his trusted opponent Jorginho, one of the quiet heroes of the Champions League winners Chelsea FC were. It was still very difficult for the Belgians to get through, against Chiellini and Bonucci, the defensive chief organizers and stability anchors at Juventus Turin and in the national team. Once the gate seemed to open to equalize when De Bruyne once again cleared the track and brought Lukaku into shooting position. The excellent Roman left-back Spinazzola saved the Italians in a desperate rescue attempt with luck and chutzpah from 2-2 (61st). A little later he dropped out with a suspected Achilles tendon rupture and had to be carried from the field by paramedics on a stretcher in tears and pain (79th). A sad moment in a duel, in which the sheer joy of playing had sparked sparks on both sides.