Zenica (AP/UNB) — Italy set a national record for consecutive wins after beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-0 in a European Championship qualifier on Friday.
Italy’s 10th successive victory eclipsed the Azzurri’s record of nine in 1938-39 under Vittorio Pozzo, who also led the national team to two World Cup trophies.
“I’m happy with the record, to go above a legend like Pozzo means a lot but the road is still long,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. “We did well to put the game on track early on.
“We’ve implemented a different way of working, in technical terms also. The guys have done very well and it’s paid off.”
Francesco Acerbi and Lorenzo Insigne scored in the first half in Zenica and Andrea Belotti added a delightful third after the break.
Italy, which had already qualified for Euro 2020 as Group J winner, extended its perfect record in the group to nine wins in nine matches. It also beat the United States in a friendly last year.
Bosnia was out of the running following Finland’s victory hours earlier, although it could still qualify for next year’s tournament through the playoffs.
Italy has come a long way in the two years since its embarrassing failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup — leaving the four-time champion out of soccer’s biggest tournament for the first time in 54 years.
“This record shows that we have to keep going,” Belotti said. “It means a lot to us but we have different goals. The real records are others. Like the real dreams.
“The coach has clearly made his mark and that’s always been there to see. It wasn’t easy to start again, he’s done well.”
Italy took the lead in the 21st minute. Federico Bernardeschi rode two tackles as he sped down the left flank and pulled it back from the byline for Nicolò Barella to touch onto Francesco Acerbi for the defender’s first international goal.
Bosnia strove for the equalizer but Italy doubled its advantage shortly before halftime when Belotti mazed his way into the area and threaded the ball through to Insigne, who placed it into the bottom left corner.
Bosnia would have reduced the deficit had it not been for a string of impressive saves from Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
The Azzurri made sure of the result seven minutes into the second half when Barella sent Belotti clear and he lifted a superb effort over the goalkeeper.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini handed Fiorentina midfielder Gaetano Castrovilli and Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini their international debuts late on.UNB