Italy thumped hapless Armenia 9-1 on Monday to complete their Euro 2020 qualifying group with a perfect record and extend their record-breaking run to 11 successive international wins as they looked forward to next year’s tournament.
Twenty-year-old Nicolo Zaniolo scored a brace, his first international goals, while Ciro Immobile also scored twice as Italy, already qualified, completed Group J with 30 points from their 10 games.
Nicolo Barella, Alessio Romagnoli, Jorginho, debutant Riccardo Orsolini and Federico Chiesa shared the other goals.
Italy also beat the United States in a friendly before the group stage began and their winning run is the longest in their 109-year history.
Armenia finished fifth with 10 points and were eliminated as they cannot qualify through the playoffs.
“I think we have the basis to become a great team for many years,” said coach Roberto Mancini. “All of our young players are improving – playing international football adds to the quality they already possess.
“We have got six months to prepare for the European Championship and it is going to be difficult to decide who to leave out of the final 23.”
Italy have scored nine goals or more in a game on three occasions — in a friendly against France in 1920 which they won 9-4 and in Olympic Games matches against Egypt in 1932, which they won 11-3, and the United States in 1948 when they won 9-0.
Mancini made seven changes from Friday’s 3-0 win in Bosnia and his new-look side were two goals ahead inside 10 minutes.
Immobile headed in Chiesa’s cross after eight minutes and one minute later the Lazio forward turned provider when he ran forward and slipped the ball to Zaniolo who scored with a shot between goalkeeper Arma Airapetyan’s legs.
Armenia nearly pulled one back when Aleksandr Karapetyan intercepted Leonardo Bonucci’s back pass and saw his lob bounce off the bar before Italy quickly added two more.
Bonucci sent Barella through and he dinked the ball over Airapetyan for the third before Immobile ran on to Zaniolo’s through ball and rounded the beleaguered keeper for the fourth after only 33 minutes.
Zaniolo added a fifth in the 64th, Romagnoli scored from a rebound eight minutes later and Jorginho converted a penalty in the 75th minute before substitute Orsolini headed in Chiesa’s cross to make it 8-0.
Edgar Babayan netted a consolation goal for Armenia with a long-range shot before Chiesa finally got on the scoresheet with by heading in an Orsolini cross.
In the other games, Finland, who guaranteed second place on Friday to qualify for their first major tournament, lost 2-1 in Greece while Bosnia won 3-0 away to Liechtenstein.
Bosnia could still qualify through the playoffs in March.
Reuters | PALERMO, Italy