A wonderful Nicolò Barella volley and Domenico Berardi penalty gave Italy third place in the Nations League, but Belgium hit the woodwork three times before Charles De Ketelaere’s late goal.
The Azzurri saw their three-year and world record 37-match unbeaten run ended by Spain in the semi-final, so this was the third place final at the Allianz Juventus Stadium in Turin. Leonardo Bonucci was suspended and Roberto Mancini made five changes, while Belgium missed Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard after their 3-2 defeat to France, resting Kevin De Bruyne.
Federico Chiesa was aggressive from the start, with two attempts in the opening minutes, while Thibaut Courtois parried a deflected Domenico Berardi strike.
Chiesa sent Giacomo Raspadori through, his finish deflected inches wide off Timothy Castagne, but Milan winger Alexis Saelemaekers thumped the crossbar from 15 yards on a Michy Batshuayi assist and Alessandro Bastoni made a decisive block on Batshuayi.
Nicolò Barella blasted not far over, then Courtois used an outstretched foot for a sensational save one-on-one as Chiesa controlled a Berardi cross-field pass to spring the offside trap.
Italy broke the deadlock at the dawn of the second half, as a corner was only cleared as far as Barella, who hit a perfect right-foot volley from the edge of the box into the near bottom corner. The Inter midfielder had also scored against Belgium in the UEFA EURO 2020 quarter-final.
Barella buries it! ⚽
Superb finish from Nicolò Barella, who gives #ITA the lead in this third-place play-off! 🇮🇹
📺 Watch live on Sky Football pic.twitter.com/2CphP7TyXe
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) October 10, 2021
Batshuayi hit the frame of the goal for the second time from a very tricky angle with his rising strike.
Timothy Castagne was penalised for his tackle on Chiesa, as although he glanced the ball, it did very little to change the direction of it and VAR confirmed the penalty. Courtois got a hand to Berardi’s spot-kick, but was unable to keep it out.
Gianluigi Donnarumma fumbled a cross, but made up for it with two tough saves on Toby Alderweireld, then Yannick Carrasco relatively undisturbed from the edge of the area thumped the near post, the third time Belgium rattled the frame of the goal.
Belgium did eventually get a goal with a classic counter-attack on an Italy corner, as the preventative marking was poor, allowing Kevin De Bruyne to send Charles De Ketelaere clear, nutmegging Donnarumma one-on-one at the near post.
Italy 2-1 Belgium
Barella 47 (I), Berardi pen 65 (I), De Ketelaere 86 (B)
Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Acerbi, Bastoni, Emerson; Barella (Cristante 70), Locatelli, Pellegrini (Jorginho 70); Berardi (Insigne 91), Raspadori (Kean 66), Chiesa (Bernardeschi 91)
Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vertonghen; Castagne, Witsel, Tielemans (De Bruyne 60), Saelemaekers (De Ketelaere 60); Vanaken, Carrasco (Trossard 87); Batshuayi
Ref: Jovanovic (SRB)