Match report as Ciro Immobile caps convincing win for Azzurri over passive Switzerland at the Stadio Olimpico; Manuel Locatelli had set Italy on their way to last 16 with first double for his country
Thursday 17 June 2021 06:34, UK
Italy booked their place in the last 16 of Euro 2020 with a group game to spare as Manuel Locatelli scored twice in a comfortable 3-0 win over Switzerland in Rome.
After Wales' impressive victory over Turkey, Roberto Mancini knew another three points would confirm his side's place in the knockout stages, but they would not be upstaged in Group A.
Those in attendance at the Stadio Olimpico were greeted to another exhibition in teamwork and game intelligence as Locatelli's double either side of half-time (26, 52) was added to late on by Ciro Immobile (89).
The result leaves Italy top of Group A on six points, two ahead of Wales ahead of their meeting in Rome on Sunday. Switzerland are not yet out of the competition, but remain in third place ahead of their final group fixture against pointless Turkey.
Italy: Donnarumma (6), Di Lorenzo (7), Bonucci (7), Chiellini (6), Spinazzola (7), Barella (8), Jorginho (7), Locatelli (9), Berardi (8), Immobile (7), Insigne (7).
Subs: Cristante (n/a), Pessina (n/a), Toloi (6), Chiesa (6), Acerbi (7).
Switzerland: Sommer (6), Elvedi (5), Schar (5), Akanji (5), Mbabu (4), Freuler (5), Xhaka (5), Rodriguez (5), Shaqiri (6), Seferovic (4), Embolo (5).
Subs: Widmer (5), Vargas (n/a), Zuber (5), Sow (n/a), Gavranovic (5).
Man of the match: Manuel Locatelli.
Italy have now gone 965 minutes without conceding a goal and have kept a clean sheet in each of their last 10 matches in all competitions - but it was their attacking flair that caught the eye against Turkey last Friday when they put down a marker.
Mancini is struggling to play down expectations around his side, who are now unbeaten in 29 matches under his stewardship, and here they served another warning of their title credentials.
They were very nearly celebrating the perfect start on Wednesday when Giorgio Chiellini reacted fastest to the loose ball from Lorenzo Insigne's corner to fire his shot beyond Yann Sommer.
Russian referee Sergey Karasev initially awarded the goal, but VAR overturned the decision as replays showed the defender had accidentally handled the ball as he challenged Manuel Akanji.
The evening went from bad to worse for the 36-year-old as he was forced off through injury, the captain clutching his left leg as he was replaced by Francesco Acerbi.
Italy were unperturbed by the setback, however, and were celebrating a legitimate goal within two minutes. Locatelli started the move, volleying a gorgeous pass out to Domenico Berardi on the right flank.
The Sassuolo winger pinned Ricardo Rodriguez back into his own box before his fired cutback found the marauding Locatelli. Remo Freuler had switched off and was punished, the finish first-time and impeccable.
"There was a lack of intensity and a lack of desire to do your job," Sky Sports' Roy Keane said in his role as a pundit on ITV.
Mancini's team were ravenous and exploiting the Swiss right flank as Granit Xhaka telegraphed a pass to Fabian Schar.
Leonardo Spinazzola gleefully accepted the gift but his poked effort with his right boot was awkward and off target.
Gary Neville said on ITV: "Switzerland are consistent in every single tournament. They get there, and that's their achievement. When they come up against a top team like Italy, they're not ruthless, they're not clinical and they struggle to score goals. They're just a little bit too nice."
Following an opening half in which Gianluigi Donnarumma had been a virtual spectator, Mario Gavranovic was introduced by head coach Vladimir Petkovic for the ineffectual Haris Seferovic.
It was clear the additional travel from Baku had drained the legs of the Swiss, but they briefly showed some bite as Schar followed Gavranovic in producing meaty challenges within five minutes of the restart.
Italy were not requiring drastic measures to stifle Xherdan Shaqiri and their passive approach was punished once more after 52 minutes. It was another fine team goal, Italy turning moving parts into mannequins, with Nicolo Barella playing the ball inside for Locatelli to plunge his low drive into the bottom corner.
Steven Zuber was denied a response when he collected Shaqiri's pass down the left, but his effort was kept out by the feet of Donnarumma.
It was turning into another chastening night for the Swiss, eliminated in the group stages three times previously before their last-16 exit in France five years ago, while Italy were looking serious contenders in this tournament.
They came close to a third when Berardi flashed his shot over under pressure from Akanji while Immobile was next to spurn a chance after being found in acres of space by Leonardo Bonucci, his shot veering a yard wide of the post.
It appeared to have been wasteful night for the Lazio forward in familiar surroundings as he would subsequently drag another effort from Federico Chiesa's pass off target, but he was not to be denied.
Substitute Rafael Toloi sniped the ball back off Gavranovic before feeding the striker. He took one touch before turning to fire low with his right boot through the gloves of Sommer and in off the post to finish off the Swiss and cap another hugely impressive display from the Italians.
Switzerland's defending left a lot to be desired on the night, but the timing of Locatelli's runs into the box and of his strike for his second were both excellent.
The 23-year-old became only the third player to scored a double for Italy at the Euros after Mario Balotelli vs Germany in 2012 and Pierluigi Casiraghi against Russia in 1996.
His goals were the 29th and 30th that Italy have scored without reply since Netherland's Donny van de Beek netted against them in October 2020.
Sky Sports' Nick Wright said: "It's worth noting that Italy goalscorer Locatelli probably wouldn't be starting tonight if it wasn't for Marco Verratti's absence through injury.
"At this rate, though, the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder might find it hard to win back his place."
Italy boss Roberto Mancini: "We won the game thinking we wanted to win it at all costs. It was a very tough match. We could have scored a second goal a bit earlier. We suffered when we had to suffer but in the end, it's a well-deserved victory.
"It was the second game in five days and the boys have worked a lot. We could have sealed it earlier but we stayed patient.
"In my opinion, there is room for improvement. Some of the lads are very young and have never even played in the European club competitions, so I think with these young lads there is huge room for improvement."
Switzerland boss Vladimir Petkovic: "Many things didn't work for us tonight, and plenty worked for Italy. The truth lies in the middle. Congratulations to Italy - they play great football, and have for some time.
"Everyone deserves to be disappointed tonight, but tomorrow from the first training session we move on. I spoke to the team and told them there's a match left, and three points could get us to the next round."
Sky Sports' Gary Neville speaking on ITV:
"They are a good team and they are achieving their maximum which is the opposite of Switzerland. They all work really hard and they are all well-drilled. I know they are getting a lot of plaudits for the start they've made to the tournament but I just think they'll fall short.
"They have done everything that's been asked of them in the first two performances, but I feel once they start to face the better teams they'll not have enough. Mancini has got them playing well and you know they are a team that will give their absolute all which is critical in order to win things.
"They fill the box well and very few teams play with midfield runners always moving forward. They are a passionate team and they represent their manager really well. I'm just not quite sure about them."
The final round of Group A fixtures takes place on Sunday with Italy hosting Wales at the Stadio Olimpico at 5pm with Switzerland travelling to Baku for a crucial encounter with Turkey at the same time.