Portugal qualifies for finals, Italy earn positives in draw
No Cristiano Ronaldo, no problem.
Portugal drew with Italy 0-0 on Saturday to pick up the point it needed to qualify for the UEFA Nations League finals and confirm it as host of the first Final Four in June.
Ronaldo is taking a break from the national team and wasn’t present at San Siro, just as he wasn’t in Portugal’s first two Nations League matches — both of which they won.
Poland has already been assured of finishing last in the group and will be relegated to League B and Italy will finish second.
However, a year after Italian football’s darkest moment, there are positive signs for the Azzurri.
Italy dominated and had the better of the chances in front of a packed home crowd in Milan.
The Azzurri almost took the lead as early as the fifth minute. Lorenzo Insigne unleashed a scorcher from distance which Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio did well to beat away, and Ciro Immobile fired the rebound over from point-blank range.
Leonardo Bonucci’s every touch was booed by the San Siro crowd — made up mainly of AC Milan and Inter Milan fans — and the Juventus defender was jeered loudly after he sent a header narrowly wide of the left post.
There was a lot of good interplay from the hosts with crisp, efficient passing in the best performance seen by an Italy side in a long time.
It was a far cry from Italy’s last match at San Siro, when it drew with Sweden 0-0 last November and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades.
The fans are also starting to fall back in love with the Azzurri, with 73,000 spectators at San Siro.