Italy won the 2021 UEFA Nations League bronze medal on Sunday afternoon, taking a 2-1 victory over Belgium at San Siro.
Both teams started with good intensity, and had chances to open the scoring. Domenico Berardi tested Thibaut Courtois from a distance, and Alexis Saelemaekers hit the crossbar with a flexing shot from the edge of the box.
The best chance of the first half came in added time, when a delicious cross ball from Berardi found Chiesa with just Courtois to beat, but the Belgian shooter somehow turned the shot around the post with his toe. .
Italy only needed two minutes of the second half to take the lead, when Nicolo Barella netted a volley just outside the box to give the hosts control. Roberto Martinez’s men came out on top in the game after the setback and set off in search of an equalizer, with Michy Batshuayi grazing the crossbar with a vicious low-angle shot.
But the Azzurri had the opportunity to double their advantage in the 64th minute, when Chiesa was fouled in the box by Timothy Castagne, and Berardi stepped in to face Courtois. The Italian winger pushed his penalty past the goalkeeper, who will think he should have done better after guessing the right path.
Toby Alderweireld then forced Gianluigi Donnarumma to make a good save and Yannick Carrasco hit the post, but they managed to add tension in the final five minutes after Charles De Ketelaere shoved the ball into the legs of the Italian keeper to attract Belgium at one point.
Italy, however, hung on to claim victory, confirming that they finished third in the 2021 Nations League.
Let’s look at the player ratings.
Gianluigi Donnarumma (GK) – 6/10 – Rooted in place as Saelemaekers rolled one up to the top corner, but the Italian was saved by the crossbar. Dropped a cross but made up for it with a good save from Alderweireld. Nutmeg on the goal.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo (RB) – 7/10 – Bitten a challenge at the half hour and got a warning for his problems. No need in such a quiet area of the land.
Francesco Acerbi (CB) – 7/10 – He kept his focus throughout the game, reading the game and stepping in to dispossess the Belgian forwards before a threat materialized.
Alessandro Bastoni (CB) – 8/10 – So much quality ahead of him in the role of center-back, but showed exactly why Inter fans are so keen to see Bastoni stay at San Siro for years to come.
Emerson Palmieri (DG) – 7/10 – Can never replicate the energy offered by Leonardo Spinazzola on the left, but did a good job of negating the Belgian threat and pushing when possible.
Nicolo Barella (CM) – 8/10 – He stepped forward with the ball at his feet and unleashed a rising shot towards the goal, which whistled over the crossbar. Broke the deadlock with a clinical volley.
Manuel Locatelli (CM) – 7/10 – Looked at home at the base of the Italian midfielder, retaining possession and moving it quickly to his teammates to push their team forward.
Lorenzo Pellegrini (CM) – 7/10 – Gave a rare start for the Azzurri and bonded well. Not allowed the freedom to roam in spaces as he awarded it in Rome. Showed some nice touches on the ball.
Domenico Berardi (AD) – 7/10 – Nice ball above to find Chiesa, but Courtois came to Belgium’s rescue. Hid his luck from the place pretty much.
Giacomo Raspadori (ST) – 6/10 – Saw the goal open in front of him and took a shot towards the near post, but Castagne covered perfectly. First to be replaced.
Federico Chiesa (AG) – 8/10 – Handed over the best chance of the first half, but Courtois did enough to rule him out. Won the penalty for the second goal with a quick change of pace. An unstoppable force.
Moise Kean (ST) – 7/10
Bryan Cristante (CM) – 6/10
Jorginho (CM) – 6/10
Federico Bernardeschi (AD) – N / A
Lorenzo Insigne (LW) – N / A
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – 6/10 – I watched Berardi’s effort in the first half until the end and had no problem even with the deviation. Made an incredible save to swing Chiesa’s shot around the post. No chance of hitting Barella’s volley.
Toby Alderweireld (CB) – 6/10 – Found himself free at the near post and shot a header towards goal, but Donnarumma saved easily. Got a yellow card for throwing the ball in the direction of the referee.
Jason Denayer (CB) – 7/10 – Took a risk with a slip challenge in the box on Di Lorenzo, but did it neatly. A decent performance in a losing team.
Jan Vertonghen (CB) – 6/10 – I got into a very untimely challenge in 15 minutes and had to walk a tightrope for the rest of the game. Fortunately, his arm raised on Di Lorenzo went unnoticed shortly after.
Timothée Castagne (RWB) – 5/10 – Well covered his central defenders to cross the penalty area and prevent Raspadori from shooting at the target. Cradled by Chiesa and fouled for the penalty – silly.
Axel Witsel (CM) – 6/10 – Protected his back line expertly, using his experience to win free kicks in the right areas – and concede them, if necessary.
Youri Tielemans (CM) – 6/10 – Kept the ball moving when Belgium held the ball and rarely seemed to give it to the opposition. Lost his grip on the game in the second half.
Yannick Carrasco (LWB) – 7/10 – So good at this role, knowing exactly when to move forward and when to hold his position. Almost brought Belgium back in the game but hit the post.
Alexis Saelemaekers (AD) – 6/10 – Did everything correctly, bending his effort from the edge of the box, but he bounced off the woodwork. Close.
Michy Batshuayi (ST) – 7/10 – Showed clever build-up and heist game to bring Saelemaekers, who almost broke the deadlock. Hit the crossbar at an acute angle.
Hans Vanaken (AG) – 6/10 – An intelligent operator, but who struggled to stand out against such a stubborn Italian defense.
Kévin de Bruyne (CM) – 7/10
Charles De Ketelaere (ST) – 7/10
Leandro Trossard (AG) – N / A