Belgium meet Italy in what is the clear standout tie from the quarter final stage at Euro 2020. Belgium come here on the back of a 1-0 win over reigning and defending champions Portugal, thanks to a late first half strike from Thorgan Hazard. Though Belgium will have big concerns that it looks likely they could be without Kevin De Bruyne and the last 16 goal scorers brother Eden Hazard, who were both forced off in their last 16 game through Injury. It would be a bitter pill to swallow, particularly for De Bruyne who was also forced off with an injury in Man City’s champions league final defeat to Chelsea. It looks like even if they make the squad and play a part, neither of them will be near 100% fit, with both having missed the squad training sessions in the build up, and manager Roberto Martinez already saying that if they make the semi finals, he would expect them both to be fit. Italy needed extra time at Wembley to get past a stubborn Austria side. It ended 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes, though Austria frontman Marko Arnautovic had a goal chalked off for offside. In extra time Italy scored 2 goals with the first coming from Federico Chiesa, before Matteo Pessina doubled their lead. Austria did hit back however with a goal from Sasa Kalajdzic, but it was too little to late as Italy held on to win 2-1.
The bookmakers (All prices taken from Skybet), have Italy as the 4/6 favourites to progress, whilst Belgium are 11/10. To win inside 90 minutes Belgium are 11/5, with Italy 11/8 and the draw is 21/10.
In their 4 games played at this years tournament so far, Belgium have scored 8 goals, conceded 1, had 38 shots with 17 on target, they have had an average possession of 55.75%, have been given 3 yellow cards, no red cards and taken 11 corners.
Italy in their 4 games have scored 9 goals, conceded 1, had 87 shots with 23 on target, they have had an average possession of 58.75%, have been given 3 yellow cards, no red cards and taken 22 corners.
The referee for this game is Slavko Vincic (Slovenia), who this season has taken charge of 11 games, awarding 31 yellow cards and no red cards, for an average of 2.82 yellow cards per game and 0 red cards per game. In his career he has refereed 38 games, handing out 149 yellow cards and 4 red cards, for an average of 3.92 yellow cards per game and 0.11 red cards per game.
Belgium missing Eden Hazard and in particular Kevin De Bruyne could really change the dynamic in this game. Both sides have been solid at the back in the tournament so far, but soo much of what Belgium look to do in attack goes through De Bruyne, and whilst Eden Hazard has been out of form, on his day he is world class and is a proven match winner, to lose them both would be a huge blow. The question for Belgium will be where does the service for Romelu Lukaku come from? I feel this Italy defence is a defence that you can definitely get at and cause problems. Leonardo Bonucci (34 years old) and Giorgino Chiellini (36 years old) are no spring chickens, and even though Chiellini missed their last 16 tie with Austria so at least should be well rested, Bonucci played all 120 minutes and the site of Romelu Lukaka baring down on them and competing for every ball whether it be on the ground or in the air is probably not an appealing proposition for the two veteran centre backs. Even Francesco Acerbi who came in for the injured Chiellini in the last 16 game is 33 years old, so its fair to say its a seasoned Italian defence. My concern for the Italians before the tournament started was that fatigue would get into their legs in the late rounds, especially the defenders I have mentioned. Though it is worth noting a similar comment could apply to Belgium in terms of their first choice defenders as well, with all of their big name defenders being over 30 years old, so Belgium is probably not a bad match up for this Italian side, especially if service to Lukaku is limited through Belgium missing two key play makers. There is a staggering difference in shots for both teams at this years tournament, with Italy having 87 and Belgium just 38, which is a testament to Roberto Mancini and the attacking brand of football he has this Italian side playing. Belgium are going to have to be efficient in front of goal in this game. In their 4 games played at this tournament, Italy have allowed just 5 shots on target against them, which is quite remarkable how they have managed to keep their defence very tight whilst also playing a more attack minded style. Surprisingly Belgium had less possession against Portugal with just 42%, and at times they were hanging on for dear life with Portugal seemingly very unlucky not to take the game into extra time. I see this game taking a similar shape, Italy will look to control the tempo of the game by controlling possession, with Belgium looking to take advantage of counter attacking opportunities. I see Italy having more shots and corners as they attempt to camp Belgium back in their own half, but I feel there is a good chance that Italy will pick up a couple of yellow cards at least as when they do make mistakes in possession, Belgium will be quick to counter and Italian players won’t think twice about breaking those counter attacks up illegally, especially with yellow cards being wiped after this round of games. I see Italy coming out on top in a close and hard fought game, where the Belgium golden generation again fails to deliver when it really matters.
The best bets in this game are (All prices taken from Skybet)
Italy to win, over 4.5 Italy corners and over 1.5 Italy cards – 11/2 William Hill
Over 0.5 goals in the match, Italy to win the corner handicap -2, over 3.5 Italy corners, over 0.5 Belgium cards and over 0.5 Italy cards – 3/1 William Hill