BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium came from behind to beat Italy 3-1 in an open and entertaining friendly in Brussels on Friday, underlining their status as one of the favourites for next year’s Euro 2016.
A largely full-strength Italy took the lead inside three minutes when Belgium keeper Simon Mignolet, given a rare start, pulled off a great low save to deny Graziano Pelle, but could only push the ball to Antonio Candreva for a simple tap-in.
Belgium, who came into the game top of FIFA’s rankings, were level 10 minutes later when a totally unmarked Jan Vertonghen headed in a Kevin De Bruyne corner.
De Bruyne finally put the hosts ahead in the 74th minute, beating Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon, who had just parried a shot from substitute Michy Batshuayi. Batshuayi then slammed in a third in the 83rd minute.
Belgium were missing captain Vincent Kompany with a calf injury and began with a largely untested right flank.
Trabzonspor’s Luis Pedro Cavanda made his debut at right back and Atletico Madrid’s Yannick Carrasco, with only three caps, played in front of him.
Pelle and Eder were regular threats for Italy and were denied at times by an outstanding Mignolet, while De Bruyne in particular had a fine game for Belgium.
Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini did well to keep Romelu Lukaku in check, and made a fine block to deny the striker in the first half.
Friday’s victory was only Belgium’s fifth against Italy in 21 matches, with Italy having won their 12 previous encounters.
The match paused for a minute of applause in the 39th minute to mark the 39 mostly Italian victims who died when a wall collapsed in Brussels at the then Heysel Stadium before the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool 30 years ago.
Belgium face Spain in Brussels next Tuesday, when Italy host Romania.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Toby Davis)