Austria will attempt to do what 30 previous opponents have failed to do against Italy’s national team: beat the Azzurri in an official match.
As one of the most impressive teams in the Euro 2021 group stage, Italy is the heavy favorite in its Round of 16 match at Wembley Stadium, standing just one game away from setting the all-time record for consecutive undefeated matches for the Italian men’s team.
Italy put on a show in its opening three group matches played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Roberto Mancini’s side is blowing up the longstanding image of Italian soccer based on sophisticated, tactical, defensive mastery. Instead, his side has become an attacking force. The Italians go vertical and fast, sending multiple players forward in full-out sprints.
Those waves of blue shirts have proven overwhelming for opposing teams to deal with. That’s what’s awaiting an Austria side which wasn’t exactly convincing during the group phase in advancing to its first-ever Euros knockout stage.
How to watch Italy vs. Austria
ABC will be broadcasting the match and the network can be streamed on fuboTV (7-day free trial).
The match is also available in Spanish via Univision’s PrendeTV app.
Italy: “Toughest game awaits us”
That’s what head coach Roberto Mancini called the Round of 16 match against Austria. He’s clearly expecting an opponent who’ll make life tough on the Italians, as underdogs are known to do in single-elimination tournament matches.
Austria was able to frustrate the Netherlands, the best team it faced in the group stage. The Dutch used an early penalty kick to break through, and despite the 2-0 final score, it was an even match the rest of the way.
“If we can get past Austria, things will go better for us,” Mancini said, looking ahead to the upcoming rounds. The winner of the Belgium vs. Portugal match will be waiting in the quarterfinals.
How will Austria play?
Austria’s German head coach Franco Foda, who happens to be of Italian descent, can be tactically flexible, but his team has opted for a three-man center back formation during group play with wing backs taking on an important role.
Austria is undoubtedly a talented team, and the group stage has shown it, especially when the Austrians are on the front foot and attacking the opposition. The moments Austria has gotten into trouble are when it cedes control and retreats into a more speculative stance. There might not be any other choice against an Italian team that’s on a roll.
The Austrians’ star player is David Alaba, who has played in that three-man back line although he regularly featured higher up the field for his most recent club team Bayern Munich. His best and most productive position has been a topic of debate and it will resurface again when he joins Real Madrid this summer.
Who starts for Italy?
With qualification to the Round of 16 already locked up, Mancini was able to rest most of his starters in the group-stage finale. Next he faces a couple of key decisions with Francesco Acerbi expected to replace injured central defender Giorgio Chiellini and Marco Verratti taking over for two-goal scorer Manuel Locatelli on the left side of central midfield. It will be interesting to see if the latter move potentially takes some steam out of the Azzurri attack.
Don’t expect the Italians to veer away from their high speed, high pressing game with quick combinations around the opposition penalty area. The three forwards will set the tone and will need to have inspired performances with the help of the fullbacks’ aggressive play down the flanks.
Italy vs. Austria odds and prediction
Forward Marko Aranautovic is Austria’s most dangerous attacking player and it will be interesting to see if Foda decides to start him or bring him off the bench. That decision will make it clear what Austria’s approach will be.
Either way, the Italian defense should be able to handle Arnautovic. And if the Italians can also avoid any major lapses on set pieces, they should be able to give their attackers the opportunity to decide the game.
The Austrian resistance will be fierce, but Italy has the talent to come up with the moment of magic it will need to move on to the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Italy 2, Austria 0
Odds courtesy of DraftKings:
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