Tue, Sep 10, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Jorginho fires Italy within touching distance of Euros

AFP, TAMPERE, Finland

Italy’s Francesco Acerbi, right, battles for the ball with Robin Lod of Finland, second right, in their UEFA Euro 2020 Group J qualifying match in Tampere, Finland, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Jorginho on Sunday fired Italy to within touching distance of Euro 2020 with a spot-kick winner that beat nearest rivals Finland 2-1 and maintained his side’s perfect qualifying record.

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho’s 79th-minute penalty in Tampere made it six wins from six for Roberto Mancini’s side and sent them six points clear of second-placed Finland in Group J, after in-form Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki had leveled Ciro Immobile’s headed opener with a penalty of his own six minutes earlier.

With two teams qualifying from the group, four-time world champions Italy are flying high with a maximum 18 points with four qualifying games to play, nine ahead of Armenia, despite the third-placed side’s thrilling 4-2 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier.

They could now secure qualification for the tournament, which kicks off in Rome in June next year, against Greece or Liechtenstein — who surprisingly drew 1-1 in Athens — next month.

“The match against Greece could be the one that secures qualification and we hope the Stadio Olimpico will be as full as during the 1990 World Cup when we were young,” Italy coach Mancini said.

Former Italy international Mancini took over last year after the Azzurri’s failure to qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.

“There was a bit of suffering, but we dominated the game,” he said. “The lads did very well overall, although we had a few scares when it was 1-1, but there were so many things that I liked. Dominating away from home every time is very positive and even the substitutes did very well, having more players to choose I think is fundamental. Our nature is to always attack, you could see that tonight, giving very little to our rivals.”

Finland — bidding to qualify for the first time — have lost both their matches to Italy after also falling 2-0 in Udine in March.

Italy’s pressure paid off in the 59th minute when Federico Chiesa raced down the right to set up Immobile, who nodded in his first international goal in two years.

“I was feeling the pressure of not scoring with this jersey, but I knew the time would come,” said SS Lazio striker Immobile, whose last Italy goal was in a World Cup qualifier against Israel in September 2017. “Tonight wasn’t easy, but we did well. We are happy, we are starting again after the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup.”

Italy looked to have thrown away the win when Pukki was tripped in the penalty area, with the striker easily beating Gianluigi Donnarumma from the spot to score his fifth of the qualifying campaign.

However seven minutes later Italy were ahead again, with another penalty taken by Jorginho, after being fouled by Robin Lod.

In Group D, Switzerland thrashed Gibraltar 4-0 and Georgia were held to a goalless draw by Denmark, while in Group F, Spain crushed the Faeroe Islands 4-0, Romania edged Malta 1-0 and Sweden were held to a 1-1 draw by Norway.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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