Despite having not been considered as front-runners to win the 2020 European Championship, Italy have demonstrated an ability to cruise past theoretically less talented opponents and clinched qualification to the next round, while also teaching some of the favourites a lesson on how to dominate in such games.
Critics have correctly noted that just a couple of the 30 teams Italy have managed to avoid defeat against in the last months are considered as strong opponents who could be ranked among the top national teams.
Italy's last defeat dates back to September 2018 against Portugal and since then Roberto Mancini's side have been impressive across all competitions.
Building confidence by beating weak rivals
Eyebrows were raised when the fact that Italy were heading into tournament boasting a 27-game unbeaten run which was stressed and hailed by supporters.
No one pointed out, however, that one of the secrets behind Italy's successful results is that they built their confidence and put together a compact side by beating opponents who were not considered strong by many, but were certainly tricky, as some of the Euro 2020 favourites noticed in the group stage.
As part of their unbeaten run, Italy beat Greece twice without conceding a single goal. That Greece team were not very different to the side who forced Spain to a 1-1 for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers back in March.
Spain have struggled so far in the tournament, failing to beat Poland, who were defeated 2-0 by Italy in the Nations League back in November.
While the Azzurri have kept 11 clean sheets in their last 11 games in all competitions, 2018 World Cup winners France failed to beat Hungary, while La Roja couldn't hit the back of the net against Sweden.
Netherlands also struggled to beat Ukraine in their Euro 2020 opener, while Portugal couldn't manage to net for 84 minutes against Hungary, England were held by Scotland to a goalless draw and FIFA's No.1 ranked Belgium needed Kevin De Bruyne's help off the bench to register a comeback win over Denmark.
All these favourites were taught an important lesson by Italy. The Azzurri may not be beating Europe's best week in week out, but they have found consistency and confidence through wins against minnows - something that others often struggle to do.