FLORENCE, Italy, Sep 4 – Italy’s all-time record run of consecutive wins came to an end on Friday with a 1-1 draw in their opening UEFA Nations League match against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Roberto Mancini’s side had won their last 11 matches coming into the clash at the all-but empty Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence, with their last fixture a 9-1 hammering of Armenia in their final qualifying match for the postponed Euro 2020.
Stefano Sensi levelled for the hosts midway through the second half after Bosnia forward Edin Dzeko had opened the scoring but the ‘Azzurri’ couldn’t find the finishing touch in the League A, Group 1 match to stretch their streak of wins beyond the coronavirus-enforced break in international football.
“We’re disappointed not to win, but there was no sharpness… our winning streak had to end sooner or later, and we’re glad it came with a draw and not a defeat,” said Mancini.
Italy came into the game missing Marco Verratti, Sandro Tonali and Federico Bernadeschi, while Mancini preferred Andrea Belotti to head the attack rather than European Golden Shoe winner Ciro Immobile.
Belotti had very little to work with as the hosts struggled to break down a stubborn if unadventurous Bosnia shorn of their star midfielder Miralem Pjanic, who tested positive for Covid-19 after signing for Barcelona from Juventus last month.
Under new coach Dusan Bajevic, the away side did little more than launch long passes for Dzeko, who plays in Italy with Roma. They didn’t register a single shot on target in the first half.
However after giving Italy a warning seconds after the break when Armin Hodzic clipped the post from a tight angle, the away side struck first through Dzeko.
The 34-year-old scored his 59h goal for his national team by lashing home after a 57th-minute corner which was allowed to be flicked on twice by a dozing Italy defence.
A stroke of luck put Italy back level 10 minutes later, with Stefano Sensi’s shot flying past Ibrahim Sehic thanks to a big deflection off the unfortunate Toni Sunjic.
The equaliser seemed to wake Italy up and Sehic had to be at his best to deny Alessandro Florenzi in the 71st minute when the Roma full-back burst through but couldn’t force his shot past the Konyaspor stopper.
Florenzi’s Roma teammate Nicolo Zaniolo came on for Federico Chiesa soon after and in the 75th minute came within inches of giving Italy the lead when he steered his header from a mishit Insigne shot just wide.
Italy next take on the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Monday after the Dutch beat Poland 1-0 in their match to top the group.