Italy needed extra-time at Wembley to ensure they joined Denmark in the last eight of Euro 2020 after Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina came off the bench to break Austrian hearts.
Roberto Mancini’s side had made everyone stand up with their performances in Group A.
On Saturday night though, against an unfancied Austria side, they were made to work for their win having offered little throughout the 90 minutes.
VAR ensured that any hopes upset were quickly dashed after Marko Arnautovic was correctly pinned for being offside after nodding home a surprise second-half goal.
Ciro Immobile’s first-half effort from 30 yards rattled the post, but that was the closest Italy came in 90 minutes.
Juventus star Chiesa produced the game’s first genuine moment of quality to put the Azzurri ahead five minutes into extra-time before Pessina grabbed a second shortly after.
Austria continued to show their character as Sasa Kalajdzic headed home from a corner to ensure a grandstand finish, but Italy held out.
Azzurri hype blunted
Yes they have made their way into the quarter-finals but Italy certainly did not live up to expectations at Wembley.
Three wins from three in the group, seven goals scored, none conceded and all while playing an attractive brand of football.
Mancini’s side had gone from underdogs to genuine contenders, but based on tonight’s performance few will fear the Azzurri.
Austria’s tight and compact defence blunted the Italian attack and Chiesa’s moment of class was much needed.
Italy certainly don’t have the household names of years gone by and whilst grinding out wins is always an admirable trait, this display will not have bothered the continent’s elite.
Verratti influence required
The PSG star didn’t feature in Italy’s opening two games, but boy has he made up for lost time having come in for Manuel Locatelli.
Verratti makes a team tick and Italy have been able to dominate games in the middle of the park with him present, even if they struggled to bother the Austria goal with any degree of regularity.
By half-time the 28-year-old maestro had already created nine chances in his 135 minutes on the pitch. Only Dan James with 10 had created more – and the Welshman had been a regular.
It serves to underline Verratti’s skillset and as the tournament progresses Mancini will need his midfielder to be at his best, especially in the final third.
Based on his two games so far, that seems a fair request, especially with the Italian’s appearing to lack ideas.
Record breaking Italy
Italy have now gone 31 games unbeaten after seeing off Austria in the last 16. In the process they have rewritten a piece of history that had stood for 82 years.
Vittorio Pozzo was the coach when Italy went four years and 30 games without defeat between October 1935 and July 1939.
During that period they won their second consecutive World Cup in 1938 and claimed the gold medal in the 1936 Olympics.
Mancini has been keen to point out that their record will mean little if they cannot achieve glory at Euro 2020.
Over to you Roberto.
Marko denied London limelight
Arnautovic returned to the city where he spent several years playing for West Ham.
During this tournament the maverick striker has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons, denying allegations of a nationalist outburst following his goal against North Macedonia.
Even during his time in England, first with Stoke and then West Ham, the Austrian was never far from grabbing the headlines.
And once again he looked to have stolen the show at Wembley – only for VAR to deny him. His header appeared to set Austria on their way to an upset victory, but it wasn’t to be.
Put. Your. Flag. Up.
Refereeing at Euro 2020 has generally been of a high standard, but why can’t linesman just put their flags up?
We’ve seen enough of this in the Premier League and all it does is cause frustration and slow the game down.
For marginal calls, of course, VAR can intervene to correct mistakes as it did with Karim Benzema’s goal for France against Germany, for example.
But in the first-half Lorenzo Insigne was so clearly offside that why rob us of 15 seconds of pointless play?
The reaction of the Austria players said it all, you’d have thought they were appealing for a stonewall penalty given how they gestured, but no, just an offside.