Football

Italy bounce back to finish third in Nations League

Nicolo Barella's thunderous strike and a penalty converted by Domenico Berardi earned hosts Italy a 2-1 victory over Belgium yesterday and third place in this year's Nations League.

It offered some consolation for the European champions, whose semi-final loss to Spain in Milan last week ended their 37-match unbeaten run - a world record.

NATIONS LEAGUE, THIRD-PLACE PLAY-OFF
ITALY BELGIUM
2 1
(Nicolo Barella 46, Domenico Berardi 65-pen) (Charles de Ketelaere 86)

The Azzurri returned to winning ways as Barella volleyed a poor corner clearance into the net one minute into the second half and Berardi added the second from the spot in the 65th minute, after Timothy Castagne had brought down the tricky Federico Chiesa.

Belgium claimed a consolation in the 86th minute when goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois' quick clearance set up a counter-attack.

Kevin de Bruyne, who came on as a second-half substitute, passed to the youthful Charles de Ketelaere to squeeze it past Gianluigi Donnarumma from close range, but it came too late to offer a dramatic finish to the game.

"Today we played very well, we were excellent. We have different solutions and quality in midfield, today they did well," Italy coach Roberto Mancini told RAI television.

Belgium, who were without Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, hit the woodwork three times but were outplayed for most of the match by their hosts at the Juventus Stadium.

Alexis Saelemaekers, who plays for AC Milan, slammed a shot against the bar in the first half, while Michy Batshuayi then had an effort hit the woodwork as Belgium came close to a 60th-minute equaliser.

Yannick Carrasco was the next to rue his luck, smashing a curling shot against the Italian post in the final 10 minutes.

"We had a lot of younger players today and they did decently," de Bruyne said. "It was good for them to play against a team of Italy's quality."

France and Spain met in this morning's final. - REUTERS

Football