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Three goals Ajjuri Nicolo Berela and Lorenzo Insigen went 2-1 up in the first half with a great strike.

However, the deficit was halved just moments after Romelu Lukaku converted from a penalty spot after teenager Jeremy Doku’s Giovanni de Lorenzo’s inexperience was one of Belgium’s more established stars.

Luaku had two great chances to equalize in the second half, but some last-gasp Italian defenders prevented Inter Milan from keeping a clear eye on the goal to advance.

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Italy played back against the wall for most of the game, but not facing Belgium means Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Banucci’s experienced veteran central defensive pair rarely got into trouble.

Faded stars?

Belgium came to the tournament with high expectations, with many labeled Euro 2020 as the last chance for the country’s aging ‘golden generation’ to win some silver medals.

The Red Devils, of course, have survived the hype so far, winning all three matches of the group stage, if not with determination, in the last 16 to send defending champions Portugal.

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In contrast, fewer people expected Italy to be as bright as the 2020 Euro.

Unlimited power, like the likes of Leonardo Spinazzola and Manuel Locoletti, gave the team an exciting offensive edge, while Marco Verretti took control of the midfield, recovering from injury.

Belgium probably started this expectation in the first leg – Lukaku found a place behind the Italian defense twice in the first half. The chances were nothing, but half an hour into the opening was a sign that Belgium was dominating.

After Leonardo Banucci returned Insigan’s free-kick, Italy thought they had taken the lead in the game, but VAR ruled that the defender was narrowly confused.

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Eden Hazard, as well as Kevin de Bruyne, were expected to miss the tie with injuries – or at least be fit enough for the bench – but head coach Roberto Martinez surprised everyone by including the Manchester City star in his starting lineup.

Forced to play from midfield and showing explosives in counter-attacks, De Bruyne showed no signs of a leg injury.

Lorenzo Insigen celebrated after finishing second in Italy.

After a one-on-one advance from several Marauders, a sweet, left-footed strike gave Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donarumma a great save. The young defender was called back into action shortly after Lukaku turned a low shot around the post.

But with Italy leading in half an hour, Belgium will continue to regret their failure to hold on to that first dominance.

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Perela picked up a loose ball inside the penalty area and somehow slammed his way through three red shirts, carrying out a horrific strike at a distant post that gave Thaibat Cortois no chance.

Belgium got up wherever they left before the goal, huffing and puffing but not really bothering the back line of Italy.

Mancini may have strayed a bit from the classic Italian textbook when it comes to defending, but there are still many hallmarks that have made Italian teams successful in the past, especially in the experienced Chileni defense martial.

However, it was Italy who scored again and it was in Insignia with one of the goals of the tournament. The unexpected Napoli forward cut the cut inside his right leg and the extraordinary effort was wrinkled in Kurtois’s outstretched arm and in the far corner.

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The Belgian shell-shocked, his players staring at Martinez as he stood around with his hands on his hips, arms folded, already had signs of resignation on his face.

But his team carried the lifeline just seconds later, with referee Slavko Vinic pointing to the penalty spot after De Lorenzo’s inexperienced push on the dory – if a little softer.

Lukaku made no mistake from the scene, his penalty landing in the middle of the goal.

Romelu Lukaku halved Belgium's deficit, but it was not enough.Romelu Lukaku halved Belgium's deficit, but it was not enough.

If the 45-minute opening ends with the best half of football so far at Euro 2020, the second round has not started in the same manner. Both teams seemed content to hold their breath, but Belgium soon began to move forward in search of an equalizer.

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The first chance came after Doku made an anxious run and found De Bruyne, who squared the ball in the face of the goal. It looked for all the world as if Lukaku put a simple tap on a very distant post, but a skillful replication from Spinazzola took it out of front reach.

The Italian defenders, especially the Chilean, celebrated with Spinazzola as if he had scored a goal.

Belgium threw everything to Italy, including goalkeeper Courtois, in the final corner of the match, but the back line of Italy never really seemed to break.

This may be the end of the road for Belgium’s ‘golden generation’, but Italy – which also failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup – now has a real chance of winning its first major trophy since the 2006 World Cup.

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