Euro 2020: Italian joy, English heartbreak after penalties drama

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Italy players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Euro 2020 final against England. (AFP)
Italy players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Euro 2020 final against England. (AFP)

London - The two teams went to a penalty shootout after the game ended 1-1 following extra time


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Published: Mon 12 Jul 2021, 2:26 AM

Last updated: Mon 12 Jul 2021, 2:42 AM

Italian football’s redemption story is complete. England’s painful half-century wait for a major title goes on.

And it just had be via a penalty shootout.

Italy won the European Championship for the second time by beating England 3-2 on penalties on Sunday. The match finished 1-1 after extra time.

Gianluigi Donnarumma dived to his left and saved the decisive spot kick by Bukayo Saka, England’s third straight failure from the penalty spot in the shooutout in front of their own fans at Wembley Stadium.

It was less than four years ago that the Italians plunged to the lowest moment of their football history by failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

Now, they are the best team in Europe and on a national-record 34-match unbeaten run under Roberto Mancini, their suave coach.

England were playing in their first major final in 55 years. It’s the latest heartache in shootouts at major tournaments, after defeats in 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2012.

England went ahead in the second minute when Luke Shaw scored the fastest goal in a European Championship final.

Leonardo Bonucci equalised in the 67th.

After the two sides remained unseparated following 120 minutes of football, Italy inflicted more penalty heartache on England as Bukayo Saka missed the decisive kick.

Saka’s kick was repelled by Gianluigi Donnarumma to give Italy the Henri Delaunay trophy for the second time at the end of a shootout in which England scored their first two penalties but then saw Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho also fail.

Jorginho could have won it for Italy only for his penalty to be saved by Jordan Pickford, giving renewed hope to the England support who had earlier created a febrile atmosphere with their team looking set to run away with this final.

The nerve-shredding climax seemed unlikely given the way the match began, with Luke Shaw scoring for Gareth Southgate’s England after just one minute and 57 seconds, the fastest goal ever in a European Championship final stunning a team who arrived here on a record 33-match unbeaten run.

Italy were shell-shocked and struggled to recover in a stadium where the official attendance was 67,173 but more England fans clearly managed to enter after disgraceful scenes when supporters without tickets stormed the gates.

Serious questions will be asked about security — the game was also briefly held up by a pitch invader late on — but English fans were obviously desperate to see their team finally win a major tournament for the first time since the 1966 World Cup.

Italy, though, had most of the possession after falling behind and ultimately deserved their equaliser when it came midway through the second half through Leonardo Bonucci.

With no further scoring, this was the first European Championship final to be decided on penalties since 1976.

It is more penalty agony for England, whose list of previous shoot-out exits included losing to Italy at Euro 2012 as well as in the Euro 96 semi-finals against Germany when Southgate missed the crucial kick.

While their 55-year wait to win another major international title goes on, Italy’s own particular half-century of hurt is over.

The Azzurri have won four World Cups but their sole European Championship triumph before this dated back to 1968.

They had lost two European Championship finals in little over two decades, with the agony of losing to France via a golden goal in Rotterdam in 2000 and then being torn apart by Spain in 2012, going down 4-0 in Kiev.

Roberto Mancini’s team had an extra day’s rest in between the semifinals and this final but they appeared completely unprepared for the experience that awaited them in London.

England’s baying supporters created a hostile atmosphere, and that combined with Southgate’s tactical choices seemed to catch the Italians off guard.

England brought back Kieran Trippier in place of Saka in the only change from their semifinal, reverting to a five-man defence.

Within two minutes the choice of system paid dividends as England broke forward, Harry Kane opening the play up to Trippier, who crossed from the right to the far post where the arriving Shaw scored on the half-volley.

Italy, who had not been behind all tournament, were stunned and the only surprise was that England did not try to press home their obvious superiority.

Instead they allowed Mancini’s side to have the ball, confident they could withstand whatever was thrown at them.

England were rarely seriously troubled in the first half even if Federico Chiesa remained a danger.

It was a rather different story in the second half once Mancini had turned to his bench, notably replacing hapless striker Ciro Immobile and sending on Domenico Berardi.

As the game opened up, Chiesa probed again and forced a save from Pickford, before a John Stones header from Trippier’s corner was tipped over by Donnarumma.

The equaliser arrived in the 67th minute. Marco Verratti stooped to meet a corner with a header that Pickford tipped onto the post, but Bonucci was on hand to score the rebound.

Italy then lost the outstanding Chiesa to injury. Lorenzo Insigne did not last into extra time either, and Verratti came off too.

England, meanwhile, sent on Jack Grealish in the hope of a bit of magic, but it would come down to penalties, and more gut-wrenching disappointment for them.

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