Italy made it six wins from six in the Euro 2020 qualifiers on Sunday night with a solid 2-1 victory over Finland.
The Azzurri largely dominated in what turned out to be an uneventful first half, but took a much-deserved lead 14 minutes into the second half courtesy of a Ciro Immobile header. That lead didn't last though, the Italians conceding a penalty thirteen minutes later which Teemu Pukki duly converted to give Finland an equaliser.
Italy, however, got a penalty of their own seven minutes after that, with Chelsea's Jorginho converting to win the game for the Italians.
Key Talking Point
If there was one word (one and a half?) to describe this Finnish side, it would be hard-working. Despite having, at least on paper, what appears to be a much weaker side, they pushed the Italians all the way.
Ultimately their attempts to tame Italy were fruitless, but there's a lot to be taken from this despite the defeat. They've proven that they can compete with the big boys and could be a surprise package at next summer's Euros should they qualify.
Starting XI: Hradecky (7); Granlund (6), Toivio (6), Arajuuri (6), Vaisanen (6), Uronen (6); Lod (6), Kamara (7), Schuller (6), Lappalainen (6); Pukki (7*)
Substitutes: Tuominen (6), Soiri (N/A), Kauko (N/A)
STAR MAN: Who else? Teemu Pukki impressed with his overall performance on the pitch and got his side the equaliser despite Gianluigi Donnarumma's futile attempts to put the Norwich striker off. He now has a whopping five goals in his last four qualifying games for Finland.
Very disappointing. Lukas Hradecky with 7 saves, Teemu Pukki with another goal, but Italy walk out with 3 points. Not a bad day, with Bosnia losing and Greece completely out thanks to a 1-1 draw against Liechtenstein. I guess it's Finland vs Armenia now... #huuhkajat #FINITA— barbarian🇫🇮 (@barbaricfooty) September 8, 2019
What a season for Teemu Pukki so far... He’s scored in all but one game for club & country:— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) September 8, 2019
Liverpool - ⚽️
Newcastle - ⚽️⚽️⚽️
Chelsea - ⚽️
West Ham - ❌
Greece - ⚽️
Italy - ⚽️
This is Teemu Pukki's world, and we're just living in it.— Tom Wyatt (@t__wyatt) September 8, 2019
Key Talking Point
This was a quality performance from the Italians, whose undefeated run now goes all the way back to September 2018, while their winning run in the qualifiers continues. Something to note is how well the Azzurri worked as a unit – the players seemed to know each other, which is a major positive for a national side.
The Italians dominated possession as well as shots on target and thoroughly deserved the win. Though they'll need to step up should they qualify for Euro 2020, the Italians will be high on confidence and have their self-belief restored following their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Starting XI: Donnarumma (6); Izzo (7), Bonucci (7), Acerbi (7), Emerson (N/A); Sensi (8), Jorginho (7), Barella (7); Chiesa (7), Immobile (8*), Lo. Pellegrini (7)
Substitutes: Florenzi (7), Bernardeschi (6), Belotti (6)
STAR MAN: Ciro Immobile will have been relieved to have gotten his first Italy goal since 2017. The Campania-born striker has often struggled to replicate his amazing club form at international level, but gave a quality performance this weekend. Hopefully finally breaking his goalless run for the Azzurri can give the Lazio striker enough confidence to perform on a more consistent basis for the national side.
Happy for Ciro Immobile, my man at fantacalcio.— Vieri Capretta (@VieriCapretta) September 8, 2019
Scores for the first time in two years for Italy - his last goal came on the 5th of September 2017 against Israel in the World Cup qualifier 👊
And what a goal it was from Ciro Immobile!— AzzurriFanPhil (@AzzurriFanPhil) September 8, 2019
There's still a while until the conclusion of the qualifiers, with both sides having four games left.
Italy will feel, given this result, that their qualification is a given. The Azzurri face Greece, Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Armenia in their last four games and will be hoping that they can end the qualification stage with a 100% win record.
Finland can take pride from their performance, having shown why they may become the first Finnish national side to qualify for a major tournament.
Huuhkajat will play Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, Liechtenstein and Greece in their last four games and having already defeated all of those sides in the qualifiers alread, they'll be confident of doing it again and sealing their place at Euro 2020.