Jonathan Wilson was in Munich to witness this fine match in person. His report has just landed … and here it is. Get clicking, people. Congratulations to Italy, commiserations to Belgium, and thanks to you all for reading this MBM. Hope to see you again tomorrow. Nighty night!
The one downer for Italy – and it’s a big one – is the loss to injury of the hamstrung Leonardo Spinazzola. The marauding left-back has been one of the sensations of the tournament, so entertaining to watch in full flight, and one of those nice late-blooming career stories to boot. His presence will be missed, though you’d still back these exciting Italians to see off unconvincing Spain at Wembley next week. But it’s tournament football, so, well, y’know.
Italy cavort with glee. Belgium look slightly stunned. Over the piece, Italy more than deserve to win: Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne scored two wonder goals, and the renowned defence held on staunchly as Belgium threw everything at them during the final exchanges. The Belgians had a couple of second-half opportunities that, on another day, would get forced into the net from close range, but Romelu Lukaku suffered an off day. Roberto Mancini embraces his players, while Roberto Martinez locates a spot roughly 1,000 yards into the distance, and looks at it quite a lot. Italy are a team on the up; Belgium’s golden generation is quickly running out of chances to convert all that potential into pots.
FULL TIME: Belgium 1-2 Italy
The whistle goes! The in-form Italians are in the semis, where they’ll face Spain! Belgium, the world number one team, are out. Their golden generation have come up short again.
90 min +7: Courtois comes forward, but no Alisson he. Vermaelen loops a harmless header over the bar, and that is surely that. Donnarumma celebrates knowing Italy are through.
90 min +6: Doku dribbles in from the left. The ball goes wide right for Witsel, whose cross is headed out by Chiellini. Corner. One last chance for Belgium!
90 min +5: Belotti takes the ball to the corner. Whistles from Italy’s fans, a fug of desperation over Belgium’s.
90 min +4: Donnarumma smothers an aimless long ball. Italy are seeing this out in very assured fashion.
90 min +3: Eventually the physios come on, then Donnarumma restarts the match. Vertonghen clumsily clatters into Di Lorenzo and concedes a foul. The clock ticks on. Vertonghen loses his cool a little, ranting and raving as Italy once again go about their business with clock-management very much in mind.
90 min +2: So this is the second of five added minutes, and now there will surely be more, because Donnarumma is still down, and the Italian physios haven’t even come on yet! This is old-school Italy.
90 min +1: Before De Bruyne can reload, Toloi replaces Chiesa. De Bruyne then floats the free kick into the mixer. Donnarumma comes to claim, but drops. The referee blows for a free kick, Witsel having clattered into him. It wasn’t much of a foul, but the keeper takes the opportunity to hit the deck and demand some treatment.
90 min: He blooters the free kick into Berardi’s back. But he’ll get a chance to retake, because Berardi was only a couple of yards away! The Italian is booked.
89 min: De Bruyne is clipped from behind by Berardi, 25 yards out, just to the left of centre. Big chance from the set piece coming up! Can De Bruyne conjure something up?
88 min: This won’t come as too much of a surprise, but Italy are now happy to sit back and keep their shape. Can Belgium break through the stingiest defence in world football?
86 min: Doku dribbles in from the left again, entering the box and almost demanding to be fouled. Jorginho rather cheekily whips the ball off his toe. A perfectly timed challenge, and one that required ice in the veins / rocks in the head. Imagine if he’d got that wrong! But, y’know, hats off.
84 min: Doku drops a shoulder to shift infield from the left touchline. Then another jink. Then another! It’s a wonderful dribble, and he nearly concludes it in memorable style, aiming for the top right. Just a bit too high, and an inch or two wide. That would have been some way to nudge this game towards extra time!
83 min: Lukaku eyebrows a headed pass down the right to release Witsel, but with options in the middle, the Belgium midfielder can’t get his cross past Bonucci.
82 min: Italy are taking their sweet time over every restart, much to the annoyance of Belgium and their fans.
81 min: The camera tracks Spinazzola’s journey around the perimeter. The stricken player covers his face as he continues to sob. A heartbreaking way for one of the players of the tournament to leave the stage. There will probably be a fair bit of time added on to this second half.
79 min: As Spinazzola departs on a stretcher, to be replaced by Emerson, Italy also swap Insigne for Berardi.
77 min: Spinazzola slips as he tries to sprint down the left, and he knows immediately that his hamstring is gone. He calmly gesticulates to the bench, then falls to the turf, breaking down in tears, suddenly realising his tournament is over. Such a shame for him, for Italy, for all of us; he’s been sensational this month.
75 min: Lukaku rolls a pass across the face of the Italian box to tee up De Bruyne. The resulting shot is blocked. Lukaku tries again. That’s blocked too, and the ball balloons softly into the arms of Donnarumma.
74 min: Italy make a double change. Off go Immobile and Verratti, on come Belotti and Cristante.
73 min: Poor old Chadli goes down with a muscle problem. He can’t continue. His evening has lasted three minutes. So close to an instant assist, but now this heartbreak. Praet comes on in the sub’s place.
71 min: Somewhere in a parallel universe, Lukaku has completed his hat-trick in the second half, bundling home twice from a couple of yards. But not in this one. The small margins.
70 min: Belgium make a double change, swapping Tielemans and Meunier for Mertens and Chadli. Both of the new men are immediately in the thick of the action. Mertens drives down the middle and slips Chadli into space on the left. Chadli loops into the centre, but Lukaku is ahead of the ball, and can’t head home from six yards. Instead, behind him, Hazard desperately tries to connect with a back-flick, but Italy escape again.
69 min: Insigne cuts in from the left and looks for the bottom right. His curler is on target, but palmed away strongly by Courtois.
68 min: Vermaelen slides into Insigne out on the left. Free kick coming up. It’s sent towards Chiesa on the right flank. Chiesa returns it to the left. Immobile shapes like Mark Hughes, going for the bicycle spectacular, but takes a very unHughesian fresh-air swipe. Belgium clear.
66 min: Now it’s Italy’s turn to miss a glorious chance. Insigne curls in from the left to find Spinazzola, romping into the box. He’s the left-back! Espen B wasn’t wrong. Spinazzola sends his first-time slapshot wide left from ten yards. This is staggeringly good fun!
64 min: De Bruyne thinks he’s robbed Bonucci legally in the centre circle. If he’s right, he and Doku are making off towards Italy’s goal. But the referee blows for a foul. There wasn’t much in it. De Bruyne tilts his head back and yelps, a Pez dispenser of despair.
62 min: Italy clear the resulting corner. The ball’s blootered miles upfield. A better touch from Insigne, and he’d be clear on goal! Good luck predicting the final score of this! Meanwhile here’s Espen B: “An Italian team leading by one goal at half time coming out in the second half attacking? The world has indeed gone mad. Next thing will be England winning an international tournament. Or is that one step too far?”
61 min: What a miss by Lukaku! Doku drives down the left, drifts infield, and slips De Bruyne free down the channel. He crosses towards Lukaku at the far post. He’s just got to trundle home from a couple of yards … but can’t force the ball past Spinazzola, who deflects the ball out for a corner! Great defending, but the Italian should never have been allowed to make the block.
59 min: Italy are drawing some very pretty triangular patterns. Some of the crowd entertain themselves with a few olés. The move predictably breaks down. Meanwhile, any old excuse …