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Italy masterclass foxes sorry Belgium

dpadpa 13/06/2016 Derek Wilson

Italy have produced a tactical masterclass to beat a highly-fancied Belgium 2-0 in Monday's Euro16 clash in Lyon.

Italy produced a tactical masterclass to defeat a high-fancied Belgium side 2-0 in Monday's European Championships clash in Lyon.

Emanuele Giaccherini scored the opening goal in the 31st minute, controlling a magnificent long pass from Leonardo Bonucci to slot home.

It was a thoroughly deserved reward for Italy, who more than neutralized the supposedly superior individual skills of Belgium with their organisation and work-rate.

Belgium's best chance to level was spurned by Romelu Lukaku early in the second half but Italy also had chances to double their lead before Graziano Pelle sealed the win in injury-time.

Group E favourites Belgium are now bottom of the table while Italy sit top after Ireland drew 1-1 with Sweden.

In the next games, Italy face Sweden on Friday and on Saturday Belgium meet Ireland.

Torrential rain had pounded Lyon before the match, drenching fans who had mingled peacefully in the city centre, but it eased before kick-off, and the pitch handled the deluge well.

Belgium, roared on by a boisterous support, started brightly as Lukaku almost got behind the Italian defence but this proved to be a rarity in the first half.

Italy adopted a flexible formation which depended on wide players Antonio Candreva and Matteo Darmian flying up and down the flanks in a tactical system which offered a 5-3-2 in defence and a remarkable 3-3-4 when pushing forward.

Belgium seemed unsure how to react as they struggled to find stars Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard out wide and were blocked by the Italian wall through the middle.

The opening goal came in a moment of inspiration from Bonucci, whose raking ball from his own half caught the Belgian defence flat-footed.

Giaccherini killed the pass superbly and calmly curled round Thibaut Courtois from 12 yards to break the deadlock.

It sparked wild celebrations on the Italy bench with coach Antonio Conte suffering a cut lip in the proceedings.

Candreva then had a powerful strike saved but Pelle should have done better than head wide with Courtois out of the picture after Belgium failed to clear a corner.

Belgium displayed more urgency as Italy began to tire late on but cynical fouls from Giorgio Chiellini, Eder and Bonucci all halted potential breaks. The yellow cards were a price worth paying.

Substitute Divock Origi headed over eight minutes from time as Belgimm grew increasingly desperate but it was Italy who came closer to a decisive goal as their own substitute Ciro Immobile had a powerful drive batted away by Courtois.

And the killer blow arrived deep into injury-time when Italy countered and Candreva's chipped cross was emphatically volleyed home by Pelle.

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