Italy is the second nation to book a spot for the 2020 European Championship after Roberto Mancini’s charges secured a place courtesy of Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Greece at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Sporting a green strip for the first time since a December 1954 meeting with Argentina, the Italians took the lead in the 63rd minute from the penalty spot. Chelsea midfielder Jorginho converted his trademark hop-and-shoot spot-kick routine following a handball in the area from Greece’s Andreas Bouchalakis.
Federico Bernardeschi doubled that advantage 15 minutes later when the Juventus attacker’s bouncing strike from distance took a deflection and eluded a lunging Alexandros Paschalakis.
It was a deserved lead for an Azzurri side that turned up the pressure in the second stanza. That display was in stark contrast to an opening half capped by the chorus of boos and whistles that followed Mancini’s lot down the tunnel after Italy failed to register a shot on target.
Jorginho’s penalty lifted the pressure off the shoulders of the host team as it largely dominated the final moments of a seventh qualifying win on the spin.
With the victory, Italy sits atop Group J on 21 points with three matches to play, nine points ahead of Scandinavian surprises Finland and an unassailable 11 points up on third-placed Armenia. Greece languishes second from bottom of the six-team group on five points.
After missing out on the 2018 World Cup, the Azzurri join Belgium in qualifying for the continental showcase that will take place at venues across Europe and the United Kingdom in celebration of the tournament’s 60th anniversary.