A night of memories and emotions. Italy take the lead, but Belgium come from behind to win

Without important players such as Pirlo, Giovinco and Verratti, Italy’s manager welcomed back Marchisio, who lined up in midfield alongside Parolo, Florenzi and Candreva. The back four in front of Buffon was made up by Darmian, Bonucci, Chiellini and De Sciglio, with Pelle and Eder playing up front. The friendly was a strong challenge for the Azzurri, who faced a team which has gone from 71st place in FIFA world rankings to first in the space of eight years. Ahead of the match, Conte had pointed out that it would be a very competitive ‘friendly’. It was a proper match from the very first minute. As a matter of fact, Italy found the back of the net after just three minutes. Candreva started the attack, launching the ball out to Florenzi on the right flank. Florenzi then crossed the ball in to Pelle, whose attempt was well stopped by Mignolet. The Belgian keeper was however unable to stop Candreva, who ran in to tap in the rebound. It was Candreva once again who had a huge chance in the 11th minute, but Mignolet was unbeatable this time. Two minutes later, when Italy were clearly on top, Belgium managed to level the scores. Vertonghen headed in from a corner kick, taking the whole Azzurri defence by surprise. Italy were then very focused defensively, doubling up when marking, but Belgium proved once again to be a formidable opposition. The game went on without any great chance, before reaching the most important minute of the match. The whole stadium applauded in memory of the 39 who died in the Heysel tragedy 30 years ago, with the screens in the stadium showing the names of those who lost their lives, and the players took a pause in play.
The Azzurri were a bit unlucky in the final stages of the first half, with Eder’s attempt going just wide in the 45th minute. The second half started again with Italy pushing. Conte introduced Soriano for Parolo, and Eder hit the crossbar in the 61st minute. Luck was not on Italy’s side, and Belgium were clinical in taking their chances. De Bruyne gave them the lead in the 75th minute, and Batshuayi put the game to bed in the 83rd, making it 3-1.   ]]>