Italy and Spain have both moved one step closer to winning the Euro 2020 tournament.
The two countries emerged victors in the keenly-contested quarter-final games against Belgium and Switzerland respectively on Friday.
While the Italians saw off their Belgian opponents 2-1 within 90 minutes, Spain were pushed to the wire; needing the lottery of penalty kicks to edge out the resilient Swiss team who had been on a fairy tale run at this competition.
The Italy versus Belgium game which many saw as the star fixture in the quarter-final pairings did not disappoint
Leonardo Bonucci thought he had given Italy the lead in the 13th minute, but Giorgio Chiellini was already offside when flicking on the Lorenzo Insigne free-kick.
After a couple of tries, Italy broke the deadlock when Ciro Immobile was down after a penalty appeal, but Verratti intercepted the clearance, Nicolo Barella jinked his way past two defenders and drilled into the far bottom corner.
This was only the second goal Belgium had conceded in EURO 2020.
As the first half wound down, Insigne surged forward before unleashing his trademark right-foot curler that flew into the far corner past Thibaut Courtois for 2-0.
However, on the stroke of half-time, Belgium got a lifeline when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Jeremy Doku and Romelu Lukaku converted the penalty.
The second half provided chances for both teams but there were no goals as Azzurri held on for a place in the semi-final.
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In the day’s earlier quarterfinal contest, Spain qualified for the semi-final stage after they beat 10-man Switzerland 1-1 (3-1 on penalties) Friday at the St Petersburg Stadium in Moscow.
Denis Zakaria deflected the ball into his own net and gave Spain a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.
While Spain enjoyed the lion’s share of possession just as they have for the majority of their matches at Euro 2020, they couldn’t increase their advantage and had to go through the tension of penalty kicks.