Italy won 10 internationals in a row for the first time in their 109-year history when goals from Francesco Acerbi, Lorenzo Insigne and Andrea Belotti gave them a 3-0 victory at Bosnia & Herzegovina in a lop-sided Euro 2020 qualifier on Friday.
The Italians, who were already assured of advancing, top Group J with a maximum 27 points and were joined by second-placed Finland (18 points) who earlier reached their first major tournament with a 3-0 home win over Liechtenstein.
The result meant coach Roberto Mancini improved on Vittorio Pozzo’s run of nine straight wins between 1938 and 1939.
“Let’s remember that he won five trophies with the national team so there is still a long road ahead,” said Mancini, who took over after Italy missed out on last year’s World Cup and has overseen a remarkable turnaround.
“Of course, I’m pleased to have bettered a legend such as him.”
Under Pozzo, Italy won the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, the 1936 Olympic Games as well as the now defunct Central European International Cup twice.
Italy’s current streak includes a friendly win over the United States followed by nine matches in Euro 2020 qualifying so far. They finish by hosting Armenia tomorrow
Bosnia dropped to fifth on 10 points and, while Finland’s victory dashed any slim hopes they had of finishing in the top two, the Balkan country can still progress to next year’s tournament via the Nations League playoffs in March.
With Finland’s success reducing the Bosnia-Italy game to a dead rubber, it was played at walking pace for long spells but the gulf in class was apparent as defender Acerbi fired the visitors ahead with a fine individual effort in the 21st minute.
Insigne doubled Italy’s lead with a bouncing shot on the turn in the 37th, while goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma denied Bosnia’s Ermin Bicakcic and Adnan Kovacevic with a pair of excellent saves at the other end.
Disgruntled home fans treated Belotti to a standing ovation after the striker made it 3-0 with a spectacular 53rd-minute goal, as he took a through ball in his stride and beat Ibrahim Sehic with a thunderbolt from 18 metres.
“If I had to find a problem, it’s that in the final 15 minutes we dropped a bit deep,” said Mancini. “When we are tired, we need to hold the ball and make the opposition run.”
Spain win 7-0
Meanwhile, Spain clinched top spot in Group F in style by hammering Malta 7-0 at home on Friday for their biggest win of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as seven players got on the scoresheet.
Spain had sealed their place at next year’s tournament last month in unconvincing fashion by drawing 1-1 with both Norway and Sweden but they created a party atmosphere in Cadiz with a superb display of attacking football.
Spain lead the standings with 23 points from nine matches, five more than second-placed Sweden who booked their place at Euro 2020 with a 2-0 win over Romania. Alvaro Morata put the Spaniards on their way to a resounding victory over malta by netting midway through the first half, scoring for the seventh consecutive game for club and country.
Santi Cazorla doubled the lead shortly before halftime with his first goal for his country in over four years, a special moment for the much-loved 34-year-old who has staged a remarkable recovery from a career-threatening foot injury.
Robert Moreno’s side turned on the style in the second half, with defender Pau Torres marking his debut with a goal in the 62nd minute and Pablo Sarabia also netting for the first time for Spain less than a minute later.
Dinamo Zagreb striker Dani Olmo then came off the bench to make his Spain debut and moments later marked the occasion by scoring his side’s fifth goal, while Gerard Moreno soon followed by netting his first goal for Spain.
Jesus Navas produced the most impressive strike of the evening for goal number seven, finding the top corner from outside the area, while substitute Paco Alcacer was not far away from hitting goal number eight when he rattled the post.
“I leave here feeling very satisfied because we never lost our desire. Every time Malta took a centre to restart the game we felt compelled to go looking for another goal,” said Moreno.
“It’s great when new players come in and bring fresh air with them. I’m very happy for the lads that made their debuts and scored because it shows the team is ready to renew itself.
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