The Warmdown: Manuel Locatelli steals the show as Italy run riot at the Stadio Olimpico
QualitySportImages/GettySport

Italy became the first side at the European Championships last night to advance into the knockout stages. A glittering evening for the Azzuri saw them collect three points and yet another clean sheet in Group A.

Manuel Locatelli was the star of the show in Rome as his brace broke Swiss hearts. The Sassuolo man put on a show to help his country to a second successive 3-0 win. The 23-year-old would break the deadlock before unleashing from 22 yards to double Italy's lead. A Ciro Immobile long-range strike would wrap up the win for the hosts. 

Locatelli's historic brace makes him only the third ever Italian player at a European Championship to score a double. Pierluigi Casiraghi against Russia in Euro 1996 and Mario Balotelli vs Germany in Euro 2012 were the first and second players to do so respectively. 

Embed from Getty Images

Plaudits poured in for Roberto Mancini's side as they captivated the hearts of many footballing fans with a vintage Italian display. Italy's exceptional unbeaten run now extends to 29 games in all competitions since the defeat against Portugal in 2018. 59 goals in their last 19 games, has remarkably only seen them concede three goals.

Mancini spoke on his side's excellent display but believes there is still room for improvement after an impressive campaign so far. 

"We won the game thinking we wanted to win it at all costs. It was a very tough match. We could have scored a second goal a bit earlier. We suffered when we had to suffer but in the end, it's a well-deserved victory. Mancini told UEFA. 

"It was the second game in five days and the boys have worked a lot. We could have sealed it earlier but we stayed patient.

"In my opinion, there is room for improvement. Some of the lads are very young and have never even played in the European club competitions, so I think with these young lads there is huge room for improvement."

In the absence of key midfielder Marco Verratti, Locatelli has expertly stepped up to replace the 28-year-old. Locatelli has arguably been Mancini's best midfielder in their opening group games and with Verratti near return, it would be a huge surprise if Locatelli was the midfield man omitted. 

A defensive and attacking masterclass from Italy now sees them having scored 31 goals without reply and won 10 games on the bounce. A mix and match night for veteran Giorgio Chiellini saw his goal cancelled by VAR and minutes sidelined with a hamstring injury. 

Meanwhile, for the Swiss, it was a frustrating evening. Confident spells of possession from Vladmir Petkovic's side would swiftly see his side's ball-playing ability squandered out by the ever-pressing Italy. A tactical change of scenery late on for the visitors would also see their 'route one' approach aerially devoured by the Italians. 

Embed from Getty Images

The front two partnership of Breel Embolo and Haris Seferovic struggled to get things going at the Olimpico, as they agonisingly watched on a free-flowing Italy side score goals for fun - something their side failed to do all evening. 

A measly point from two games for Switzerland could potentially see them knocked out of the tournament as one of the two third-place departures.

With only one goal scored so far, the Swiss's final group game sees them facing off against Turkey. For Petkovic's side, it is a must-win occasion against an outfit that has failed to gain a single point so far in Group A. 

A chance to end their group stage campaign with a 100% record will see Italy's entertain Wales at the Stadio Olimpico in their final Group A game on Sunday afternoon.

VAVEL Logo