There’s no denying that Belgium v Italy is the Euro 2020 quarter-final that every football fan is looking forward to most. Arguably the two most impressive teams remaining in the tournament, something will have to give in Munich on Friday as they go head-to-head for a place in the semi-finals. It’s an unenviable task for those analysing the Belgium v Italy betting to pick a winner.
On paper, there’s no denying that Belgium boast the superior squad of players. After all, they are the number one team in the FIFA World Rankings for a reason, and it was that supreme quality that got them over the line against Portugal in the last 16. But Italy will pose a sterner test — a team who are effortless in possession, dominant in defence, and crucially, defined by an immense will and determination which has the potential to carry them all the way in this tournament.
It’s a stretch to call it a battle of fire and ice. After all, Belgium are nicknamed the Red Devils and have plenty of explosive players of their own. But it’s true that there has been a certain degree of coolness to Belgium’s progression through the Euros this summer. With the exception of the final 20 minutes against Portugal, where they were understandably under extreme duress, they have been a picture of comfort.
Now will come the true test of their mettle. Italy are one of those teams who have a sum greater than their parts, and Mancini has achieved the rare feat of creating a team whose natural passion and heart is balanced by a swift, controlled, balanced style of football. The fact that captain Giorgio Chiellini has been absent for much of the tournament, and yet Italy have looked none the weaker, is testament to the winning machine Mancini has created.
Italy haven’t lost in what seems like a lifetime, but Belgium are the kind of team who have the potential to bring that sensational run to an end, and it’s no wonder that manager Roberto Martínez is being courted by a number of clubs across Europe. In many ways, it’s a shame that these two teams have charted a collision course for the quarter-finals, as it would be a worthy final in its own right, with both sides fancied in the UEFA Euros winner odds.
The Italians can take some confidence from the fact that they emerged triumphant from the last meeting of the two sides — which was in the group stage of Euro 2016. Italy won 2-0 that night, in a game where Belgium’s stars were shackled and Italy simply picked at their prey. But much has changed in the five years since. Belgium have a run to the World Cup semi-final under their belt, and this so-called golden generation of talent will be hugely motivated to make it all the way to the final.
But Italy have demonstrated a unique spirit at this tournament. There is something refreshing about a team where the focus isn’t on any one individual, but the collective machinations of a group of players working towards the same shimmering prize. There have been some hard times for Italian football over the last few years, namely missing out on a place at the 2018 World Cup. Belgium’s task in Munich is to quell the overwhelming wave of energy, emotion and, above all, blisteringly entertaining football that is carrying Italy on a memorable journey.