Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was clear after the match: "I think we received a lesson from them, tactically", he told reporters. It's true that Italian coach Antonio Conte outfoxed his Belgian colleague Marc Wilmots.
The Italians played clever and well-organised, while the Belgians seemed to lack clear tactics. Moreover, the two star players Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) and Eden Hazard (Chelsea) never found their best form, according to critics because they were in their best position.
A win needed against Ireland next
Italy scored two outstanding goals, through Emanuele Giaccherini (photo below) in the first half and Graziano Pelle in stoppage time, to sink the hard-working but poorly inspired Red Devils 2-0. Striker Romelu Lukaku (Everton) had the best chance on a swift counter-attack but saw his effort going centimetres wide. In the second half, Wilmots had no answers to Conte's tactics.
Belgium will have to come up with a better plan against Ireland on Saturday afternoon and Sweden on Wednesday evening (next week) if they want to advance to the second round. Sweden and Ireland drew 1-all earlier in the day.
"We did a lot that was good"
"We have lost a battle but we haven't lost the war", Wilmots told reporters, "and what counts is qualifying for the next round. We did a lot that was good but if you don't make it count, you can't win the game."
Belgium -second on the FIFA rankings - was (is) labelled as one of the outsiders to win the European title and had started as the favourites against Italy. "The result shows that nothing in football can be taken for granted and we did our talking on the pitch," a delighted Conte said. Italy has the oldest squad in Euro history.
Number 3 on the list
Belgium v. Italy was watched by 2,217,428 football fans on Belgian television, on the VRT's first channel "Eén".
This ranks the match as number 3 on the list of best-watched games in Belgian TV history, behind two games from the previous World Cup in Brazil: Belgium - South Korea and Belgium - U.S.A. The clash between Belgium and the United States, won by the Belgians after a thrilling end to the game, was watched by 2.37 million viewers.