Italy beats Belgium 2-1 to finish 3rd in Nations League
TURIN, Italy (AP) — European champion Italy bounced back from its first loss in more than three years to beat Belgium 2-1 in the Nations League’s third-place match on Sunday.
Nicolò Barella opened the scoring at the start of the second half and Domenico Berardi doubled Italy’s lead from the spot in the 65th minute.
Belgium hit the woodwork three times before Charles De Ketelaere netted his first international goal four minutes from time.
Italy had seen its world record 37-match unbeaten run ended by Spain in Wednesday’s semifinal, with Leonardo Bonucci sent off before halftime in a 2-1 loss. Belgium lost to France on Thursday, after the world champion recovered from two goals down to win 3-2.
France and Spain meet in the final in Milan later Sunday.
Both Belgium and Italy made sweeping changes from their semifinal lineups. Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Thomas Foket had left the Belgium squad after sustaining injuries.
Italy started aggressively but it was Belgium which went closest to taking the lead when a fierce effort by Alexis Saelemaekers crashed off the crossbar.
Italy could have broken the deadlock on the stroke of halftime but Thibaut Courtois made a fine save with his feet to push Federico Chiesa’s effort round the post.
It took the Azzurri less than a minute of the second half to open the scoring when a corner was headed out but only as far as Barella, who volleyed into the bottom left corner.
It was Barella’s first goal for Italy since scoring in the 2-1 win over Belgium in the Euro 2020 quarterfinals.
Belgium almost leveled on the hour mark but Michy Batshuayi’s effort came off the crossbar and instead Italy doubled its lead five minutes later when it was awarded a penalty after Timothy Castagne nudged over Chiesa.
Courtois got a hand to Berardi’s spotkick, but the power took it in anyway.
Yannick Carrasco hit the right post for Belgium eight minutes from time before it finally got one back.
An Italian corner was caught by Courtois, whose long throw to Kevin De Bruyne sparked a counterattack. De Bruyne found De Ketelaere and his angled shot went through the legs of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
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