Italy got off to a stunner in their opening Group E clash against Belgium as goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle secured them a fine 2-0 win at Lyon on Monday night.
Also, defending champions Spain, ground out a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic at Toulouse thanks to Gerard Pique’s late goal while Sweden and the Republic of Ireland played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Paris.
Belgium’s were punished by a ruthless Italian performance despite the Red Devils dominating for long spells.
Italy coach Antonio Conte said the team’s first round failure at the 2014 World Cup should inspire the Azzurri to success at the ongoing European Championships.
Giaccherini’s wonderful strike just after the half hour put Italy in front before Southampton striker Pelle sealed the win with a thumping finish from Antonio Candreva’s cross.
A star-studded attack consisting of Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku were frustrated throughout by Italy’s rock solid defence of Andre Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
The Belgians were exposed when Bonucci’s long floated pass found Giaccherini in behind their defence as the latter stroked his shot past goal-keeper Thibaut Courtois.
Belgium upped the intensity after the break and came close on two occasions when Lukaku first clipped the post before his replacement Divock Origi later headed over when unmarked from close range.
Italy continued to pose a threat on the counter-attack and sealed a massive win when Pelle volleyed into an unguarded goal from Candreva’s splendid cross.