Italy maintained their unbeaten start to qualification for the 2022 World Cup as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria at Florence’s Stadio Artemio Franchi on Thursday.
A goal from Federico Chiesa helped the Azzurri equal Spain’s world record 35-match unbeaten streak, but Roberto Mancini’s side were left frustrated in their first match since winning Euro 2020.
Italy raced into the lead as Chiesa’s slaloming run saw an attempted one-two deflect back into his path, and he made no mistake with an accurate low strike. Yet, Bulgaria were level just before half-time as Kiril Despedov led a rapid counterattack and teed up Ascoli striker Atanas Iliev for a sweeping finish.
The Azzurri dominated the second half and Chiesa and Immobile came close, whilst goalkeeper Georgi Georgiev produced a fine save to deny the latter. However, the European champions were unable to break through a determined Bulgarian backline and find a winner.