Goals in either half from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle ensured Italy hit the ground running at Euro 2016 as the Azzurri condemned highly-fancied Belgium to a 2-0 defeat on Monday.
Marc Wilmot’s Belgium, the highest ranked side coming into the European championship finals, dominated for long spells of the Group E clash at the Stade de Lyon.
But Giaccherini’s strike just after the half hour and Southampton striker Pelle’s stunning finish in stoppage time meant it was future Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s men who took the three points.
However, Conte refused to get carried away as Italy crashed out the World Cup two years ago at the group stage despite beating England in their opening game.
“I don’t think a single game can change people’s assessments and we still have an open wound from the World Cup when even a good performance against England meant nothing as we still went out,” said Conte, who suffered a cut to his face during wild celebrations of Italy’s opening goal.
That open wound from two years ago needs to burn in the players. They have realised that to make waves here they need to do something extraordinary, nothing ordinary.
However, Belgium now face a crucial clash with Ireland on Saturday in Bordeaux if they are to avoid an embarrassing early exit.