REGGIO EMILIA, Italy (AP)Italy’s new-look attacking lineup fired the Azzurri to a 5-0 win over Lithuania in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday and a first victory since winning the European Championship.
Moise Kean scored twice and Giacomo Raspadori netted his first Italy goal – and forced an own goal – in an impressive first half for the Italians. It was the first time Italy had scored four in the opening 30 minutes of an international match.
The two 21-year-olds, who were born within 10 days of each other, had started because of a number of absentees in the Italy squad, including Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa.
”It’s all in their minds and their feet,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. ”If they do what they need to do, work seriously, work hard, remain organized on the field, then they have a great future. But it depends on them.”
Giovanni Di Lorenzo also scored his first goal for Italy, early in the second half.
”Despite losing so many players between yesterday and the day before, the lads who went out onto the field responded well,” Mancini said. ”Obviously the opponents weren’t of the highest quality, but then scoring five or six goals isn’t so easy, what’s important is that we did good things.”
Italy remained atop Group C and extended its advantage to six points ahead of second-place Switzerland, which has played two matches fewer.
Switzerland forward Haris Seferovic had a penalty saved by Bailey Peacock-Farrell as his team was held to a 0-0 draw by Northern Ireland.
Only the group winner advances directly to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The runner-up goes to a 12-team, two-round playoffs bracket in March.
Italy was looking to get back on track after two successive draws following its Euro 2020 final victory over England in July. And it was playing a Lithuania squad that was bottom of the group and had lost all eight of its games played in 2021, scoring two goals and conceding 20.
Kean was getting his first soccer action of the season after moving back to Juventus from Everton. And he gave Italy the lead with the first real chance in the 11th minute as he pounced on a Lithuania mistake before firing into the near bottom corner.
Italy doubled its lead three minutes later when Raspadori’s effort took a deflection off Edgaras Utkus. Raspadori, who plays for Sassuolo and thought he had scored his first Italy goal in his home stadium, celebrated in front of his family and friends in the stands but it went down as an own goal.
However, the youngster did open his Italy account just 10 minutes later. Di Lorenzo rolled the ball across the area toward Kean and it was intercepted by Lithuania defender Justas Lasickas, but his clearance fell straight to Raspadori, who fired it into the roof of the net from close range.
Kean doubled his tally in the 29th minute when he volleyed in a delightful ball over the top from Federico Bernardeschi.
That was a fourth Italy goal for Kean, who had scored two in his first three appearances for the Azzurri back in 2019.
Raspadori also had a goal ruled out eight minutes into the second half but Italy did score its fifth moments later as what appeared to be a lobbed pass from Di Lorenzo ended up in the back of the net, surprising everyone – not least the Italy defender.
Gaetano Castrovilli almost also got his first Azzurri goal but hit the post late on as Italy extended its record unbeaten run to 37.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports