Italy star Francesco Acerbi has hinted that he would prefer to face Cristiano Ronaldo instead of Romelu Lukaku in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals, as he believes that the Portugal captain “is easier to mark” than Belgium’s in-form striker.
Acerbi played the full 120 minutes of Italy’s 2-1 victory over Austria in the round of 16 on Saturday, with all three goals coming in extra time following a goalless first 90 minutes at Wembley.
Roberto Mancini’s side will face the winner of Portugal’s clash with Belgium in the next round, and Acerbi admits he would fancy his chances of stopping Ronaldo more than Lukaku, who he sees as a “complete player”.
What’s been said?
Asked after the Austria game which man is more difficult to cover from a defensive standpoint, the Italy centre-back told reporters: “Maybe Lukaku, because he’s a complete player, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo, who always scores.
“As a centre-forward, Lukaku is more difficult to mark because he has more physique, he has power and is a bit more of a striker.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is the classic forward, but he is more easier to mark than Lukaku.”
Ronaldo & Lukaku compared at Euro 2020
Ronaldo is currently leading the way for the Golden Boot at the European Championship, having hit five goals in his first three appearances at this summer’s tournament.
The 36-year-old scored twice in a 3-0 win over Hungary and once in a 4-2 defeat to Germany before netting two penalties in their 2-2 draw with France – becoming the joint all-time top scorer in international football in the process.
Lukaku, meanwhile, scored a brace in Belgium’s opening group stage win against Russia, and although he was unable to get on the scoresheet in their subsequent triumph over Denmark, he took his tally to three goals in three games with a trademark finish against Finland.
Acerbi on Italy’s latest performance
Acerbi went on to admit that Italy weren’t at their free-flowing best against Austria, but was pleased with the mental toughness they showed to set up a heavyweight last-eight encounter.
“We were bad, but also efficient,” he said. “Austria closed down and maybe we were a bit tense. Maybe we had to dribble a little more at certain times in the match, but this is a game that is won in a dirty way.
“When you play an inside-out game, there’s a bit of fear. You are aware of your strengths but also aware of the strengths of the opponent, because Austria have great players. They are strong, physical and capable of putting you in difficulty.
“We knew it would that from the second phase it would be difficult, especially mentally. Now every game is important. Being a bit tense is normal. Now, we’ll meet either Belgium or Portugal, then if we win it’s France, they are strong teams, which perhaps will make you play better. But they have much more quality.”