79 min: As Spinazzola departs on a stretcher, to be replaced by Emerson, Italy also swap Insigne for Berardi.
77 min: Spinazzola slips as he tries to sprint down the left, and he knows immediately that his hamstring is gone. He calmly gesticulates to the bench, then falls to the turf, breaking down in tears, suddenly realising his tournament is over. Such a shame for him, for Italy, for all of us; he’s been sensational this month.
75 min: Lukaku rolls a pass across the face of the Italian box to tee up De Bruyne. The resulting shot is blocked. Lukaku tries again. That’s blocked too, and the ball balloons softly into the arms of Donnarumma.
74 min: Italy make a double change. Off go Immobile and Verratti, on come Belotti and Cristante.
73 min: Poor old Chadli goes down with a muscle problem. He can’t continue. His evening has lasted three minutes. So close to an instant assist, but now this heartbreak. Praet comes on in the sub’s place.
71 min: Somewhere in a parallel universe, Lukaku has completed his hat-trick in the second half, bundling home twice from a couple of yards. But not in this one. The small margins.
70 min: Belgium make a double change, swapping Tielemans and Meunier for Mertens and Chadli. Both of the new men are immediately in the thick of the action. Mertens drives down the middle and slips Chadli into space on the left. Chadli loops into the centre, but Lukaku is ahead of the ball, and can’t head home from six yards. Instead, behind him, Hazard desperately tries to connect with a back-flick, but Italy escape again.
69 min: Insigne cuts in from the left and looks for the bottom right. His curler is on target, but palmed away strongly by Courtois.
68 min: Vermaelen slides into Insigne out on the left. Free kick coming up. It’s sent towards Chiesa on the right flank. Chiesa returns it to the left. Immobile shapes like Mark Hughes, going for the bicycle spectacular, but takes a very unHughesian fresh-air swipe. Belgium clear.
66 min: Now it’s Italy’s turn to miss a glorious chance. Insigne curls in from the left to find Spinazzola, romping into the box. He’s the left-back! Espen B wasn’t wrong. Spinazzola sends his first-time slapshot wide left from ten yards. This is staggeringly good fun!
64 min: De Bruyne thinks he’s robbed Bonucci legally in the centre circle. If he’s right, he and Doku are making off towards Italy’s goal. But the referee blows for a foul. There wasn’t much in it. De Bruyne tilts his head back and yelps, a Pez dispenser of despair.
62 min: Italy clear the resulting corner. The ball’s blootered miles upfield. A better touch from Insigne, and he’d be clear on goal! Good luck predicting the final score of this! Meanwhile here’s Espen B: “An Italian team leading by one goal at half time coming out in the second half attacking? The world has indeed gone mad. Next thing will be England winning an international tournament. Or is that one step too far?”
61 min: What a miss by Lukaku! Doku drives down the left, drifts infield, and slips De Bruyne free down the channel. He crosses towards Lukaku at the far post. He’s just got to trundle home from a couple of yards … but can’t force the ball past Spinazzola, who deflects the ball out for a corner! Great defending, but the Italian should never have been allowed to make the block.
59 min:Italy are drawing some very pretty triangular patterns. Some of the crowd entertain themselves with a few olés. The move predictably breaks down. Meanwhile, any old excuse …
57 min: Vermaelen gives away a corner with a poor backpass down the Italian left. The set piece leads to Jorginho going over in the box, in the near vicinity of De Bruyne. Some Italians claim for a penalty … but not Jorginho. We play on.
56 min: The corner’s only half cleared. Doku goes at Di Lorenzo again down the left. Di Lorenzo, perhaps understandably, doesn’t fancy engaging too much. Doku fires low to the near post, in the hope of finding Lukaku, but Donnarumma gets down well to smother.
55 min: Tielemans works his way down the right and feeds Meunier, who crosses deep for Lukaku. Bonucci is forced to turn out for a corner.
53 min:Belgium string a few passes together for the first time since the restart. They don’t really go anywhere, but that’s not the point; they’ve calmed Italy down a bit, and are slowly working their way back into this.
51 min: De Bruyne and Jorginho chase a ball down the Belgian right. The former shoves the latter in the back, causing Jorginho to chest the ball out for a corner. But it’s a foul. De Bruyne complains in the theatrical style, though he’s got some nerve given that was twice the shove Di Lorenzo gave Doku for the penalty. Still, don’t ask, don’t get.
49 min: One corner leads to another, which leads to a goal kick. Courtois clears upfield, but the white shirts are soon in possession again. Belgium haven’t really got going in this second half yet, a marked difference to the manner in which they started the first.
48 min: Roberto Mancini has clearly told his players to get after Belgium and finish them off. They’ve come flying out of the blocks at the start of this second half. Insigne worms his way down the left and wins a corner.
47 min: Insigne tees up Chiesa, on the edge of the Belgium D. Chiesa, who operates a shoot-on-sight policy, whistles an effort wide right.
46 min: Insigne is immediately on the attack, scampering down the left. He’d be within his rights to go for another curler – he’s got plenty of moral credit after his first-half stunner – but opts to find Immobile on the opposite flank instead. Poor choice, poor pass.
Italy get the second half underway. Neither manager has blinked yet; no changes. Here’s Billy Graboso: “Expect the Italians to win a penalty in the second half. Belgium’s penalty was quite soft.” Christopher Burke adds: “I think the penalty was a penalty, but overall I find this referee too credulous when players hit the floor. I don’t trust him to keep a lid on things in the second half.”
A reminder that the winner of this high-octane in-play classic will face Spain in the semi-finals. Nick Ames was in St Petersburg to watch the Swiss lose a fairly low-quality penalty shootout.
Half-time entertainment … for those of you who may have heard that there’s a match going on tomorrow night.
Not for the first time during Euro 2020, Mary Waltz speaks for us all. “Hot damn! Shit howdy! It’s crackin! It’s bumpin’! Oh my! Choose your favorite expression, this match has it all.”
HALF TIME: Belgium 1-2 Italy
That’s the last act of a frenetic, frantic, freestyle first half! What entertainment! Italy were well worth their two-goal lead, having scored a couple of absolute peaches. But that light shove on Doku – which Italy are still complaining about as the teams leave the pitch – has brought the world number one team back into it. You’re not going to go anywhere, are you? Thought not. See you for the second half!
GOAL! Belgium 1-2 Italy (Lukaku 45+2)
Lukaku gives Donnarumma the eyes, sending the keeper to his right, then skelping the penalty down the middle!
45 min +1: VAR has a good look at the decision, but the penalty stands. A huge moment coming up! Lukaku to take.
Penalty for Belgium!
45 min: Doku has been extremely quiet. But now look! He drives down the left and enters the Italian box. He gets just ahead of Di Lorenzo, who shoves him in the small of the back. Over he goes, and the referee points to the spot!
GOAL! Belgium 0-2 Italy (Insigne 44)
Insigne dribbles down the left. He cuts inside, past Tielemans with ease, then aims a power curler towards the top right. In it goes! Courtois was at full strength, but had no chance. What a goal! Another pearler!
43 min: Spinazzola burns down the left before finding Immobile at the near post with a low cross. Immobile is six yards out, but can’t find the space to shoot. He turns and eventually the chance is gone. No matter, though, because …
41 min: Di Lorenzo’s right-wing cross earns another Italian corner. Insigne’s delivery is half-cleared to Chiesa, 20 yards out. He sets himself, checks his line, and curls a fine effort inches wide of the top right. Not entirely sure Courtois was getting to that, had it been on target.
39 min: Witsel slaps a hand across Verratti’s mouth as the pair tussle in midfield. He wants his opponent booked, but this time the referee doesn’t respond to the prompting. Witsel is slightly lucky to get away with that.
38 min: Now it’s Belgium’s turn to probe patiently in the opposition half. Italy aren’t minded to be pulled out of shape.
36 min: Italy’s high press is causing Belgium more than a few problems. They ship possession in their own half, allowing Barella the opportunity for another shot, this time from a great distance. It’s weak and wide right.
34 min: Belgium respond through Meunier, who romps down the right and whips in a low cross that deflects off Jorginho and nearly whistles into the bottom right of the Italy goal. Donnarumma probably had that covered, but even so. Sheesh. Nothing comes of the corner. This is breathless and brilliant.
33 min: That was a sensational goal! Barella turned on a sixpence and in one swift, elegant pirouette, saw off Vermaelen, Vertonghen and Hazard. The finish into the bottom left wasn’t half bad either.
GOAL! Belgium 0-1 Italy (Barella 31)
Italy take the free kick quickly. Immobile goes down, wanting a penalty. He’s not getting one. Belgium only half clear. Verratti, to the right of the D, feeds Barella down the channel. Barella squeaks through a gap, past three at once, and buries a shot across Courtois and into the bottom left! This one counts!
31 min: Di Lorenzo makes good down the right and is crudely blocked by Hazard. Free kick. From which …
30 min: Insigne whips the corner to the near post. Vermaelen clears.
29 min:Italy suddenly pick it up, Chiesa bustling on the edge of the Belgian box before feeding Spinazzola down the left. The exciting left-back wins Italy’s first corner of the game.
28 min:Italy slow it down again. It’s fair to say this match is ebbing and flowing, in a very pleasing fashion.