Match Preview: Italy vow to stick to their normal game against Belgium

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Italy coach Roberto Mancini said his side will play their own game against Belgium, the nation top of the FIFA world rankings, in Friday’s Euro 2020 quarter-final in Munich.

Mancini’s team, who conceded their first goal in 19 hours and 28 minutes against Austria in their 2-1 last-16 victory on Saturday, have also impressed in attack, scoring nine goals in four matches in the tournament.

But the prospect of facing Belgium, who have also won four out of four games at Euro 2020, does not mean Mancini will adopt more conservative tactics.

“We will play our own game, well aware that we are up against the best team in the world at this moment of time,” Mancini told a news conference on Thursday.

“If they have been top of the FIFA rankings for three years it means they have been very good for a long time, but we will still play our way. We could tweak a few things a long the way if things do not go to plan, but we have a certain style of play and Belgium do too. I am sure it will be a wonderful game of football. The winner will be the team who makes the fewest errors.”

Belgium‘s main threat is a familiar one for the Azzurri defence with Romelu Lukaku, who has scored three goals in the tournament, set to spearhead Roberto Martinez side’s attack in the Allianz Arena.

Lukaku was voted player of the year in Italy’s Serie A this season, as he fired Inter Milan to their first top-flight title in 11 years.

“We have got a lot of respect for Lukaku because he had a great season for Inter, and this goes for our entire squad,” said Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, whose task is likely to be marking Lukaku.

“All season we witnessed what a match winner and important player he has become. I think it would be doing a disservice to say Belgium are all about Romelu Lukaku, though, as they have quality players throughout the pitch. We will prepare as we always have done, keeping an eye on Lukaku and their other top players.”

Belgium’s Dries Mertens is looking forward more than most to Friday’s European Championship quarter-final against Italy where he has spent the last eight years of his club career.

Mertens broke Diego Maradona’s goalscoring record at Napoli last year and has played with many of the Italians he will be up against in Munich.

“It is special to play against Italy because I’ve lived there for the last eight years and I know all their players,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.

Mertens is a big admirer of Italy’s national team, among the most impressive at Euro 2020 so far.

“This generation can play football. They have won a long series of matches and conceded few goals. They have a good mix between youth and experience,” he said.

“Many people did not expect them to play attacking football, but they have shown great trust in that approach. It’s been nice to see them at work.”

Italy will also be the favourites, asserted Mertens despite Belgium being top-ranked by FIFA.

Italy are on a 31-match unbeaten run, stretching back to a 1-0 defeat by Portugal in the Nations League in September 2018. The goal conceded to Austria in their 2-1 victory in Saturday’s last-16 tie was the first in 12 matches.

, too, have big dreams for their “golden generation”
, still in search of a first major tournament trophy.

“It is not the last chance because I believe in the future of the Belgian football, but I’m the first to say that we must seize this opportunity,” Mertens said.