Italy boss Roberto Mancini believes his side could face an easier task in their Euro 2020 quarter-final than the last 16-battle against Austria, which they won 2-1 after extra-time.
The Azzuri had to do things the hard way at Wembley as they needed extra-time goals from Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina to book their place in the next round as they faced their first real test of the tournament.
They had turned heads with an impressive group stage, blitzing past Turkey, Switzerland and Wales with vibrant and high-energy performances to make themselves contenders for the trophy.
But they were unable to recreate that in London and needed two goals in the additional period to book a last-eight tie with either Belgium or Portugal in Munich.
On paper that looks a difficult draw, but former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini thinks his side, who posted a record 31 games unbeaten, might have just come through their toughest test.
He said: “We knew there would be potential banana skins in this match and we thought it would be tougher than the quarter-final, they are not as good as teams in quarter-final, but they really make life tough for you, they cause problems.
“We knew we scored in the first half it would have been a different game.
“We said it would be a match we would have to struggle through to get the win. We had to dig deep.
“The players wanted to win at all costs and with the subs they did a good job and we were able to win.”
Italy showed high levels of energy in their three group games, but they were looking jaded until the introduction of Marco Locatelli, Pessina and Chiesa changed the game.
Mancini added: “They were brilliant and that can be a huge advantage for us. The fact we have players that can step in and change the game because they are fresh, it was an excellent performance.”
Things could have been different had former West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic’s goal not been ruled out by VAR for a marginal offside decision when Austria were dominating Italy.
It was the furthest Osterreich have ever been in this tournament and it could have been even better, but head coach Franco Foda says the country can still be proud.
“In the 65th minute, we scored a goal that was close offside, if we scored there we would have won the match at the end,” he said.
“Everybody is disappointed because we were eliminated but if we look at the performance we can be very proud.
✅ First EURO finals knockout match— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 26, 2021
“The whole nation is very proud, we wrote history, we made it into the round of 16 and lost very narrowly against one of the favourites.
“We didn’t pay attention twice and trailed as a result. Even after we conceded the second we didn’t stop and were close to scoring an equaliser. I am really proud, an extraordinary performance from my team.
“After 90 (minutes) we were convinced that the Italians were on the brink of defeat but at this level against a team with their quality they take a advantage of their opportunities.
“We represented ourselves and our country very well.”
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