Wembley: Italy play Austria in a second Euro 2020 round of 16 tie at the Wembley Stadium here on Saturday.
No team impressed more in the group stage than Group A winners Italy, who qualified with back-to-back 3-0 victories over Turkey and Switzerland before taking their winning streak to 11 games – all without conceding a goal – by edging Wales 1-0. Besides the unbeaten streak, Italy will also be trying to set another record. The team has not conceded a goal in 11 matches, a total of 1,055 minutes. If Austria fails to score, Italy will surpass the record of 1,143 minutes set between 1972 and 1974.
For a team that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Italy's recent results are quite remarkable. Italy is playing with such spirit that the buzzword among the Azzurri players is fairytale.
"Now another tournament begins. If the boys continue to play like they are doing, I'm happy – that's all I ask for. Verratti or Locatelli? Someone good will not play," said Roberto Mancini, Italy coach.
Cautioning their rivals, Lorenzo Insigne, Italy styriker said, "We have watched some of Austria's matches. We haven't discussed any details yet but, from what we've seen, they are a very physical team who can run and press the entire match. But we won't let ourselves be influenced by them; we'll play our football. All we need to do is stay calm and prepare for this match like all the others in order to go out and play a great game."
Austria's first two Group C matches went to form with a comfortable 3-1 success against North Macedonia followed by a 2-0 defeat by the Netherlands. They saved their best performance for when they truly needed it, though, dominating Ukraine and taking the points through Christoph Baumgartner's solitary goal. A similar display will be required here.
"In this phase of the tournament, there are no easy opponents. Italy haven't lost for an eternity but perhaps there will come a time when they lose again. It will be important for us to prepare with focus and recover, then we will do everything we can to win in London. It will be tough but the team are eager and ready. I have a plan."
Florian Grillitsch, Austria midfielder, "Of course, we know that Italy are favourites. But we've already achieved something historic; why shouldn't we keep going? We're the underdogs, we know we'll need another top performance, to raise our game another level, and perhaps even get a bit of luck." Austria, which has reached the round of 16 at the tournament for the first time.
Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Acerbi, Spinazzola; Barella, Jorginho, Locatelli; Berardi, Immobile, Insigne
Doubtful: Florenzi (calf), Chiellini (thigh)
Misses next match if booked: Pessina
Austria: Bachmann; Lainer, Dragovi, Hinteregger, Alaba; Laimer, Grillitsch, X. Schlager; Sabitzer, Baumgartner; Arnautovi
Out: Lazaro (thigh)