Rome – Manuel Locatelli scored a brace and Ciro Immobile added a late third as Italy sealed their place in the Euro 2020 last 16 today with a game to spare after a 3-0 win over Switzerland in Rome.
Sassuolo midfielder Locatelli put the Azzurri ahead after 26 minutes in the Group A clash, adding a second just after the break with Immobile scoring for the second consecutive game a minute from time.
Roberto Mancini’s side are top of Group A with six points from two games, with six goals scored and none conceded, two points clear of Wales who beat Turkey 2-0 earlier.
Italy will advance as Group A winners if they avoid defeat against surprise Euro 2016 semifinalists Wales at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday.
The only bad news for the Italians in a game they dominated was the loss of captain Giorgio Chiellini who hobbled off the pitch with a muscle injury in the first half.
The 36-year-old Juventus defender had a 20th-minute goal ruled out for handball by VAR and four minutes later asked to be replaced, holding his thigh.
Lazio defender Francesco Acerbi took his place, making his debut in a major international tournament at the age of 33, with the captain’s armband handed to Juventus teammate Leonardo Bonucci.
Italy gave the Swiss no space in another commanding display, having beaten Turkey 3-0 five days ago in Rome.
Lazio forward Immobile once again led Italy’s three-man attack, flanked by wingers Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi.
Immobile missed several changes to add to his tally sending a header over the bar early from a Leonardo Spinazzola cross.
After Chiellini’s exit, Locatelli started the move which reaped the opener, combining with Sassuolo teammate Domenico Berardi, who weaved into the area and steered across for the former to the finish off.
Swiss keeper Yann Sommer denied Immobile and an Insigne follow-up was cleared off the line after half an hour.
Another well worked move resulted in Italy’s second goal, Nicolo Barella teeing up Locatelli to drive in from 20 yards.
It brought his tally to three goals in 12 appearances for Italy since making his debut last September.
Switzerland had few chances with Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri sending over after an hour while Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma denied Steven Zuber their best effort minutes later.
For Italy it was a 10th consecutive win with a clean sheet, extending their unbeaten run to 29 matches since September 2018 – just after failing to qualify for the last World Cup.
Italy have now scored two goals or more in each of their last 10 international matches.
Mancini meanwhile moves within one game of Italy’s two-time World Cup-winning coach Vittorio Pozzo’s record of 30 unbeaten games between 1935 and 1939. — AFP