Austria is into the knockout round of a major international tournament for the first time since 1982, but they've drawn a tough opponent in an Italian team that hasn't conceded a goal in a competitive match since last October.
The first day of the Round of 16 sees a European power team set to take on a relatively inexperienced side, as Italy and Austria will clash at Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday. The Azzurri finished first in Group A and have emerged as tournament favourites as one of three teams that managed to sweep their group stage matches. Austria picked up two wins and a loss to finish second in Group C and qualify for the Euro’s knockout round for the first time ever.
Italy vs. Austria Betting Odds
Despite a plus-7 goal-differential in the group stage for the Italians, the Under 2.5 goals is favoured at -136, likely because Austria only finished plus-1. Italy is -747 on ‘draw no bets’, with Austria at +412. With two goals in the group stage, Italy’s Ciro Immobile is a +425 favourite to get the match’s first goal. He’s also a +135 favourite to be an anytime goalscorer. At +354, the favoured exact score is a 1-0 Italy win.
Italy’s favoured stage of elimination is the quarterfinals at +150. The Austrians are -476 to end their tournament in the Round of 16. At +600, Italy is the second-favourite to win the tournament (France is +383). Austria is a heavy +14500 underdog to take the title, the biggest number of the remaining teams.
Playing all their group stage matches in Rome, the Italians cruised through Group A with a pair of 3-0 victories over Turkey and Switzerland and a 1-0 win over Wales with eight of the previous Starting XI sitting out to rest. The tournament will only get harder from here, as Italy will face Belgium or Portugal if they win on Saturday. It won’t just be a win they’re looking for, Italy doesn’t want to concede a single goal. The Italians have posted a clean sheet in every match since a 1-1 draw to the Netherlands last October. That’s a span over over 1,000 minutes of gameplay. This squad has now won 10 straight matches for only the second time ever and it would be shocking to see them bow out now.
There are some real questions surrounding Italy’s strong defence for Saturday. Captain Giorgio Chiellini limped off the field against Switzerland with a muscular issue and didn’t play in the Wales game. The injury doesn’t appear serious and he’s back training with the full team, but he will reportedly not start against Austria. Full-back Alessandro Florenzi is also questionable to play. There’s also a dilemma at midfield, as only one of Manuel Locatelli or Marco Verratti can start. Locatelli played great in the first two matches, but Verratti took his place against Wales to test his his knee and he seems recovered. The front is more certain, with Domenico Berardi, Lorenzo Bonucci and Immobile likely to start. After earning ‘Star of the Match’ against Wales, Federico Chiesa should also see some game action.
This is a patient squad that clinically picks apart opponents and has the capability to score in bunches. They’ll likely come out strong from the start and try to get the score high enough to limit the starting XI’s minutes and save energy for a tough quarterfinal matchup.
With the odds already stacked against them, Austria also likely won’t have many fans at the neutral match because of travel restrictions. Despite a lack of expected Austrian fans, this is still a huge accomplishment for the team. Austria hasn’t advanced past the group stage of a major tournament since the notorious 1982 World Cup “Disgrace of Gijon” (google it for an interesting read). Captain David Alaba will likely be a key feature in the match. Alaba’s versatility has seen him play everywhere from left-back to central midfield and either flank. Regardless of where he plays, he’ll have his hands full against the Azzurri.
The rest of the Austrian lineup isn’t any more certain, as manager Franco Foda has consistently made adjustments throughout the tournament. After serving a one-match ban for insulting an opponent, striker Marko Arnautovic was a big part of the 4-2-3-1 formation against the Ukraine. Up against an incredibly difficult opponent, Foda may risk a more aggressive formation. With Christoph Baumgartner, Julian Baumgartlinger, Martin Hinteregger and Valentino Lazaro all questionable with injuries, Stefan Ilsanker could draw into the starting XI. Again, it all depends on where Alaba plays.
This is going to be an incredibly tough match for Austria and they know it. They’re up against an offensively powerful opponent that also hasn’t conceded a competitive goal in over six months. Austria’s best bet is to clamp down defensively and hope for a lucky bounce at some point.
Italy vs. Austria Score Prediction
Italy 3, Austria 0