Italy beat Switzerland to book Euro last-16 spot

Italy became the first team to secure a spot in the knockout rounds of the 2020 European Championship as a Manuel Locatelli double saw them past Switzerland in their Group A match at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Wednesday.

Roberto Mancini’s side came into the game with a nine-match winning streak in all competitions without conceding a goal dating back to November 2020, and had not lost in their last 28 matches since a 1-0 defeat to Portugal in the UEFA Nations League.

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Italy played some beautiful football to start the first half and looked to have taken the lead around the 20-minute mark only to see Giorgio Chiellini‘s goal waved off for handball after a VAR check.

However, it didn’t take long for Italy to get the ball in the back of the net again, as Locatelli tapped in from close range after a hard-charging run down the sideline and cross from Domenico Berardi left his teammate with the easiest of finishes.

Switzerland struggled to create chances against a stingy Italian defense that hadn’t conceded a goal over their nine-match winning streak and the first half ended with the hosts leading 1-0.

“We won the game thinking we wanted to win it at all costs,” Mancini said. “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.”

Locatelli scored a deserved second for Italy soon after the break, picking up a pass at the top of the penalty area and smashing a left-footed shot past Swiss keeper Yann Sommer to make the visitors’ way back into the game even more complicated.

“Two goals for a midfielder are not easy at all and not a given,” Mancini said. “Manuel played a great match. His action in the first goal was great.”

Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma didn’t have much to do throughout the opening 60 minutes, but he came up with a pair of stellar saves on close-range efforts from Switzerland just after the hour mark.

Ciro Immobile added further gloss to the scoreline just before full-time with an absolute screamer from outside the penalty area that beat Sommer at his far post to give Italy their sixth goal at the Euro in two matches following their 3-0 win over Turkey on Friday.

“France, Portugal and Belgium are all at the Euros,” Mancini said. “One is the world champion, one is the European champion and the other is ranked No. 1 in the world.

“These are teams that have been built over years and are further along than us in development. But anything can happen in football.”

The result keeps Italy — unbeaten in 29 matches after the win and undefeated in competitive matches at the Stadio Olimpico — atop Group A on six points, with Wales in second on four points after beating fourth-place Turkey earlier in the day and Switzerland with a single point in third.

Next up for Italy is a Sunday match against Wales, while Switzerland face Turkey on the same day.