Italy 4-0 Czech Republic
A few hours before kick-off in this international friendly, my SBOTOP colleague said to me that he fancied Italy to do well at Euro 2020.
After 90 minutes and plenty of international friendly highlights later in Bologna, I agree with him even more.
The Azzurri not only kickstarted their preparations for the upcoming tournament but underlined just why they are intent on bouncing back from the humiliation of failing to qualify for the last World Cup.
Yes, they benefited from two first half deflections but, once Ciro Immobile fired them ahead in the 23rd minute against the Czech Republic – themselves 10 days away from beginning the competition – the outcome was never in doubt.
Highlights of the game
No wonder expectation is growing throughout the peninsula.
Since taking the reins in May 2018, Robert Mancini has the highest win rate of any Italy manager – coming out on top in over two-thirds of his 29 games to date as his new-look side has rattled in 71 goals and conceded just 14 during the process.
After a perfect Euro qualifying campaign with 10 wins out of 10, Italy have also reached the semi-finals of the ongoing Nations League and claimed three wins from three on the road to Qatar 2022, all the while extending their unbeaten home record in World Cup qualifiers to 56 games.
Take all that into consideration and no wonder the Czechs didn’t stand a chance against the four-time world champions who are now undefeated in their last 26 matches.
While Czech coach Jaroslav Silhavy has attacking spearheads in former Serie A striker Patrik Schick, Matej Vydra and Tomas Pekhart, all three were named on the bench.
Mancini, meanwhile, had a full squad with the exception of Marco Verratti (knee) and Stefano Sensi (muscular).
After a strong Czech start, the hosts took the lead when Immobile fired in via a defender.
After Lorenzo Insigne hit the side-netting from close range, they doubled their advantage – albeit with another fortunate deflection – as Nicolo Barella surged forward and slipped but the ball looped in off the shin of left-back Jan Boril.
Midway through the second half Lorenzo Insigne celebrated his 30th birthday with a goal, flicking the ball into the far bottom corner with the inside of his right boot.
A team effort completed the scoring seven minutes later as Insigne ran into acres of space down the left, passed through the visitors’ rearguard and found Domenico Berardi who delivered a lovely dinked finish.
If Mancini, who reached the semi-finals of Euro 1988 and the 1990 World Cup as a player, can do better as coach over the next month it will be some achievement.
Either way though, do not underestimate the Azzurri and don’t forget to study our international friendly betting odds.
Italy have kept nine clean sheets in their last 10 matches, including their past eight games.
Czech Republic have kept only two clean sheets in their last 16 matches.
Berardi has scored five goals in his last six games for Italy.
Sassuolo striker Giacomo Raspadori came on for his international debut as a 78th minute substitute, A late and surprise addition to the Azzurri squad for Euro 2020, his first appearance was in his hometown of Bologna at the Stadio Dall’Ara.
These two sides last met back in 2013 in a World Cup qualifier when Giorgio Chiellini and Mario Balotelli netted in a 2-1 Italian win, only their second win over Czech Republic in six encounters.
The real action now begins for Italy who face Turkey in the Euro 2020 opener a week tonight (June 11).
Switzerland (June 16) and Wales (June 20) are the other opponents in Group A. The Czech Republic entertain Alania in their final friendly on Tuesday evening (June 8) before opening their tournament against Scotland in Group D on June 14.