Italy welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Allianz Stadium in Turin on Tuesday evening, with the two national sides ready to do battle for three points in their respective qualifying campaigns for the upcoming European Championship next year.
Italy entered the game topping Group J with all nine points from the opening three matches, while Bosnia shared places three and four with Greece on four points.
Italy boss Roberto Mancini was still without the services of goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, so Salavatore Sirigu took his place between the posts again. The centre of defence brimmed with experience with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini playing there, with Emerson on the left and Gianluca Mancini on the right. Jorginho acted as the deep-lying playmaker, with Marco Verratti next to him and Nicolo Barella playing a bit further up. Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi covered the wide attacking positions, with Fabio Quagliarella between them.
Robert Prosinečki in the visitors’ dugout had some notable players missing. He certainly could have used Empoli midfielder Rade Krunić and Arsenal left-back Sead Kolašinac.
Ibrahim Sehić was in goal. Ervin Zukanović and Ermin Bičakčić paired up in the heart of defence, with Eldar Ćivić and Darko Todorović covering their flanks. Miralem Pjanić, Muhamed Bešić and Elvis Sarić formed the three-man midfield. Edin Džeko led the line upfront, with the support from Amer Gojak and Edin Višća out wide.
The First Half
The game opened up rather lively. The home team had more of the ball early on, but the Bosnians weren’t intimidated at all. They looked for any opportunity to get the ball forward quickly, and Džeko was doing a good job holding it up and giving his teammates time to join him. Both sides looked like they could score at any moment, and defences had to be alert.
In the 17th minute, Italy created a good chance for Bernardeschi to shoot from the edge of the box, but his effort was blocked. Bosnia retaliated through Višća whose deflected attempt confused Sirigu but sailed past the post. Five minutes later, Todorović cut inside from the right and had a go, but too tame to give Sirigu a problem.
And a minute after the half-hour mark, it finally happened. Verratti lamely ruined a chance to organize a good attack and lost a ball, and Bosnia were off. Višća charged down the right, played a wonderful one-two with Bešić and whipped a low cross into the six yards, from where a striker like Džeko always scores.
Italy almost struck back immediately as a good cross from Insigne got Chiellini running into the six-yard box, but the defender-turned-striker couldn’t reach it ahead of Sehić.
Their best chance came five minutes from the break as Quigliarella whacked a low one from 18 yards and straight towards the bottom corner, but Sehić produced a magnificent save.
Nonetheless, the moment gave the Azzurri some boost and they were now playing a lot quicker, spending quite a lot of time in the attacking third. They were whipping the ball into the box and taking shots whenever they could, but the visitors held on.
The Second Half
It was expected Italy would continue looking for the equalizer after the restart, and they did, but it was Gojak first who could have doubled Bosnia’s lead as he flicked a free header wide from a perfect cross by Bešić.
But then, a sensational goal by Lorenzo Insigne. Bernardeschi took a cunning corner from the right side, slashing it back towards the edge of the box where the Napoli forward was waiting. Insigne caught it perfectly on a first-time volley and slammed it past the helpless Sehić.
But the response from the visitors was amazing. They pushed Italy back with strong initiative, and a period followed where they created chance after chance.
Džeko could have put his side back in front immediately as a good through ball found him in behind, but Sirigu rushed out of the box and got to it first. Next it was Gojak again who headed goalwards and caused Sirigu significant problems, but Chiellini was there to clear it off the line. A minute later, Sarić took a long-range shot and missed the target by a yard, before a good team move enabled Višća to shoot from 10 yards and force a good save from Sirigu. Just before the hour-mark, Džeko wriggled past Barella and Mancini and made the Italy ‘keeper work again.
With 65 minutes gone, Italy finally shook off the pressure and moved the battle front further from their goal, and Insigne immediately created a good chance as he aimed a diagonal cross in behind towards the run of Chiesa, but the Fiorentina winger failed to control it properly. Barella sent a fantastic cross from the right towards the far post where the 5’4″ Insigne had a free header, but Sehić did well to save it. The Bosnia goalkeeper had another great moment to deny Chiellini’s header a few moments later.
With around 15 minutes to go, Džeko gave Prosinečki a big worry after going down with a bloody head due to a clash with Chiellini, but the Roma striker recovered after receiving medical assistance.
Five minutes later, both coaches added some fresh legs in their respective attacking lines. Prosinečki withdrew Gojak and sent on Gojko Cimirot, while Mancini replaced Bernardeschi with Andrea Belotti.
Both teams went on in search for a late winner, but it would eventually be Italy who found one. Insigne was once again involved as he charged at Todorović in the 86th minute. He entered the box and squared it for Verratti, and the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder calmly slotted into the far bottom corner where Sehić had absolutely no chance of reaching it.
The final minutes passed in Bosnia going forward and trying to salvage a point, but they had simply run out of steam. Eventually, Insigne came close to adding a third for his team as he charged forward on a counterattack, but his last-second shot went well over the bar.
Football can sometimes be a cruel game it was certainly the case for Bosnia and Herzegovina in this game. They gave as good a performance as Italy and made the game really dynamic and unpredictable for the most part, but in the end, they left Turin with nothing to show for it.
They haven’t lost any ground on Greece; but they have on Armenia, who beat their hosts in Athens on the same evening and leap-frogged both them and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Group J table.
Italy, meanwhile, continue their domination of the group with 12 points from four games now.
ITALY: Sirigu 6.5, Bonucci 7, Chiellini 7.5, Mancini 6 (66′ De Sciglio N/A), Emerson 7, Jorginho 7, Verratti 7.5, Barella 7, Bernardeschi 7 (81′ Belotti N/A), Insigne 8.5, Quagliarella 6 (46′ Chiesa 7).
BOSNIA: Sehić 8, Zukanović 6.5, Bičakčić 7, Ćivić 7.5 (72′ Nastić 6), Todorović 6.5 , Pjanić 7, Bešić 7.5, Sarić 7, Višća 7, Gojak 7 (81′ Cimirot N/A), Džeko 7.5.
GOALS: Džeko 32′, Insigne 49′, Verratti 86′.
YELLOW CARDS: Jorginho 14′, Bešić 44′, Ćivić 44′, Sarić 62′, Džeko 90’+2.
REFEREE: Xavier Estrada, Spain.
DATE & VENUE: June 11, 2019, Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
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