Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Italy 4-0 Czech Republic: Azzurri sign off in style ahead of Euro 2020

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 4 Jun 2021

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Italy extended their impressive unbeaten run to 27 matches as they completed their Euro 2020 preparations with a 4-0 victory over the Czech Republic on Friday.

Ciro Immobile and Nicolo Barella grabbed first-half goals in the friendly fixture at the Renato Dall’Ara Stadium in Bologna, though both benefited from seeing their attempts take crucial deflections to beat Jiri Pavlenka.

Lorenzo Insigne required no help to add a third in the 66th minute and then set up Domenico Berardi for the final goal as the Czechs were easily bounced, producing a worrying performance ahead of their involvement in the European Championship.

In contrast, the Azzurri head into the delayed tournament having not been beaten since a 1-0 reverse against Portugal in a Nations League fixture back in September 2018.

Not long after an injury scare for Leonardo Bonucci that saw the Juventus centre-back require treatment on his right knee, Immobile opened the scoring when his close-range shot clipped Ondrej Celustka to wrong-foot goalkeeper Pavlenka.

If that goal was somewhat unfortunate for the Czech Republic, the second they conceded was just plain bizarre.

Barella was allowed to carry the ball when in possession before taking aim from just outside the penalty area, his effort hitting not one but two defenders before ending up in the net.

Jan Boril’s bid to make a block on the Inter midfielder only sent the ball onto compatriot Jakub Brabec, who – with his back turned – ended up sending the ball looping up and over the luckless Pavlenka.

Immobile’s clever throughball allowed Insigne to curl a right-footed attempt into the net, while the scorer of Italy’s third turned provider to set up Berardi for a cheeky finish, with an initial dummy fooling Pavlenka to allow the Sassuolo player to flick in with his left foot.

Roberto Mancini handed Berardi’s club colleague Giacomo Raspadori a debut off the bench, but the forward – a surprise selection in the final 26-man squad announced on Monday – could not mark the memorable occasion by adding his name to the list of scorers.

What does it mean? Azzurri in prime form 
 
While warm-up wins over San Marino and the Czech Republic by a combined score of 11-0 have perhaps not provided too much insight ahead of tougher challenges, Italy are undoubtedly heading into Euro 2020 in outstanding shape. 
 
The squad announcement show aired live on Italian television will perhaps live longer in the memory than this comfortable triumph, but Mancini has now not seen his side even concede a goal in eight games, shutting out opponents ever since Donny van de Beek equalised in a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands last October.

Insigne makes his mark 
 
After 19 goals in Serie A for Napoli, Insigne demonstrated against the Czechs why he could be such a key figure for his country. Working from Italy’s left flank, he had six shots – no other team-mate had more than three – while he also produced three key passes, one of which was the assist for Berardi’s goal.

Czechs need to improve – and fast 
 
Head coach Jaroslav Silhavy saw luck go against his team in the first half, but will be concerned how easily they were cut open after the break. Then there is their attacking play – or lack of it. While the visitors had nine attempts in the game, only one was on target.

What’s next? 
 
Italy open their Group A campaign against Turkey in a week, followed by games against Switzerland and Wales. As for the Czech Republic, they have one final warm-up fixture against Albania to come on Tuesday. Their Euro 2020 fixture list starts with Scotland on June 14.

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