Wednesday November 18 2020
Nations League: Italy conquer Bosnia for Final Four

Italy won their Nations League group and qualified for the Final Four – which they will host next year – after acrobatic Andrea Belotti and Domenico Berardi volleys in Bosnia.

Follow all the action as it happens and give your views on the LIVEBLOG.

The Azzurri needed a win to be sure of qualification for the Nations League Final Four, as the Netherlands fought back from a goal down to beat Poland 2-1. They are in the Final Four with France, Spain and Belgium next year, a tournament they will host in Turin and Milan.

There was only one change from the XI that defeated Poland 2-0 on Sunday, with Domenico Berardi replacing Federico Bernardeschi, but players such as Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Federico Chiesa were still out. Bosnia were already relegated into League B and were decimated by COVID, missing Edin Dzeko, Sead Kolasinac, Armin Hodzic, Ibrahim Sehic, Asmir Begovic and Jasmin Buric.

Roberto Mancini was also absent for the third game running due to COVID, so assistant manager Alberico Evani was again on the bench.

Bosnia had the first chance after four minutes, Alessandro Florenzi deflecting a Rade Krunic counter-attack over the bar. Andrea Belotti should’ve done better when snatching a volley wide from six yards after Emerson Palmieri nodded down a Berardi cross, then his diving header couldn’t make the most of Florenzi’s cross.

It was third time lucky for Il Gallo, as Manuel Locatelli won the ball back in midfield and sent Lorenzo Insigne down the left, his cross found Belotti for a strange looping volley at full stretch. It was the Torino striker’s first Italy goal in over a year.

Berardi’s left-foot curler forced a desperate save, then Nicolò Barella’s cross glanced the head of Emerson, taking it away from Belotti right behind him.

Gianluigi Donnarumma had to make a great reaction save from point-blank range using his legs on Smail Prevljak.

However, Insigne’s divine first touch on a Barella cross-field pass deserved a goal, his curler clipping the far post with Kenan Piric well beaten.

There was a scare just before half-time, Amer Gojak of Torino not making the most of a Jorginho error.

After the restart, Belotti hit the side-netting from another inspired Insigne slide-rule pass, and Locatelli came sliding in a second too late to meet Francesco Acerbi’s ball from three yards. Alessio Romagnoli was booked on the bench for sarcastically applauding the referee.

The second goal was more sheer quality, and an all-Sassuolo affair. Locatelli flicked a ball over the top of the defence, Berardi sprung the offside trap and let it fall over his shoulder for a magnificent volley from 12 yards. It was his second goal in as many games.

Belotti had penalty appeals waved away after he stole the ball from Dennis Hadzikadunic and seemed to be brought down. Bosnia played the last eight minutes down to 10 men, as Sinisa Sanicanin pulled a hamstring after the substitutions had been completed.

Federico Bernardeschi came off the bench and his sweetly-hit strike cannoned off the underside of the crossbar.

Bosnia 0-2 Italy

Belotti 22 (I), Berardi 68 (I)

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Piric; Corluka, Hadzikadunic, Sanicanin, Kadusic (Todorovic 79); Cimirot, Pjanic (Danilovic 77), Gojak; Tatar (Rahmanovic 79), Prevljak (Hadzic 79), Krunic (Loncar 71)

Italy: G Donnarumma; Florenzi (Di Lorenzo 46), Acerbi, Bastoni, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Locatelli; Berardi (Bernardeschi 82), Belotti (Lasagna 82), Insigne (Calabria 94)

Ref: Artur Dias (POR)