Sarajevo (AFP) – Italy sealed their ticket to next year’s Nations League finals on Wednesday with a confident 2-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo.
Andrea Belotti volleyed in a Lorenzo Insigne cross after 22 minutes with Domenico Berardi adding a second on 68 minutes to ensure the Azzurri finished top of League A group 1.
Italy had beaten Poland 2-0 on Sunday and finished off the job against the already-relegated Bosnians.
Both sides were hit by coronavirus with Italy coach Roberto Mancini missing the trip and the Bosnians without several players including Roma forward Edin Dzeko and Arsenal left-back Sead Kolasinac.
“These lads have given a great gift to Mancini, who must surely be very satisfied now,” said Italy assistant coach Alberico Evani.
Mancini took over after four-time world champions Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.
After qualifying for next year’s European Championships with ten wins in as many matches, Italy had laboured more in the Nations League, with three wins and three draws.
“We look forward to facing the best teams in Europe in the finals, to see what level we have reached,” continued Evani.
“We believe we are getting close to them. Let’s see if it’s true.”
Despite Rade Krunic threatening early for the hosts Italy dominated from the outset with Berardi starting in place of Juventus forward Federico Bernardeschi in the only change from the Poland game.
Belotti missed two chances in the first quarter of an hour, squandering an Insigne cross and nodding wide.
But the 26-year-old made no mistake after 22 minutes as Manuel Locatelli won a midfield duel sending the ball through for Insigne whose cross found Belotti to volley in his 10th Italy goal and first since November 2019, also against Bosnia.
Italy missed chances for a second with an Emerson Palmieri header flying wide and Insigne hitting the post.
At the other end of the pitch, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma blocked Smail Prevljak’s chance to level before the break.
Belotti, combining with an impressive Insigne on the night, again threatened after the interval but it was a combination of Sassuolo pair Berardi and Locatelli which paid off.
Locatelli crossed for Berardi whose acrobatic volley beat Kenan Piric for the 26-year-old’s second consecutive goal after Poland last weekend and third for Italy.
Bernardeschi and Kevin Lasagna came on late and both threatened a third in the dying minutes as Italy cruised to their 22nd consecutive game without defeat.
The Azzurri finished one point ahead of the Netherlands with Poland third to secure their berth in next October’s finals which Italy will host.
“Once again we imposed our game,” said Napoli forward Insigne.
“We knew it was a difficult game because we had several problems, but we were very determined and showed great personality.
“We always wear the national team shirt with pride and respect.”
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