KT edit: Trophies come home when athletes learn to withstand blows


The famous European trophy will now be paraded in Rome.

Published: Tue 13 Jul 2021, 12:55 AM

So it’s not coming home. Instead, Wembley, the home of football, witnessed the final stroke of the paintbrush on an Italian masterpiece that catapulted Roberto Mancini’s team into the sphere of footballing immortals. A team that were forced to pick up the pieces after the humiliation of their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, have just ushered in their own renaissance. The famous European trophy will now be paraded in Rome. England would be distraught. Having endured 55 years of misery on the global stage, the inventors of the game thought their time for redemption had finally arrived. Such was the euphoria that hundreds of ticketless fans even broke through security barriers before kick-off, managing to catch the intrepid Luke Shaw, the Manchester United defender who showed predatory instincts of a centre-forward in volleying home the quickest goal in the history of European Championship finals.

But the finals are not won by talent and spirit alone. On paper, England had the better players on the pitch and on the bench. Giorgio Chiellini, the Italian captain, had admitted before the final that England’s “substitutes could all be in the starting 11 of a team that win this competition”. Ironically, it was the missed penalties in the shootout from three of England’s most talented substitute, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, that led to the English heartbreak. On the other hand, the cornerstone of Italy’s triumph was their resilience. Mancini has built a wonderful Italian team that is not afraid to play with freedom. But after conceding the early goal, it was the classic Italian defending and counterattacks that allowed Mancini’s men to lay the foundations for one of their most beautiful moments in football.

The daggers will be now out for England manager Gareth Southgate, a man who was seeking his own redemption, having endured the pain of missing the decisive spot-kick against Germany in the penalty shootout of the 1996 Euro semifinal on the same ground. For Southgate, Euro 2020 did not quite become the fairytale he had craved. But he should be incredibly proud of what he has achieved, getting the Three Lions to the Wembley final, just three years after guiding them to the World Cup semifinal. Maybe, Southgate’s team can look up to Novak Djokovic and Lionel Messi for inspiration. The former had his share of battles after winning his first Grand Slam in 2008. The next two years saw Djokovic almost become an object of ridicule as he battled the demons in his mind before turning his fortunes around, winning 19 Grand Slams since 2011. And Messi, for all his Barcelona heroics, endured pain and humiliation on the international stage. But the Argentina captain just refused to give up. And the iconic striker finally cried tears of joy in the Copa America final after Argentina handed Brazil their first defeat at the Maracana since 1950. Djokovic and Messi’s stories are a reminder that trophies come home when athletes learn to withstand a zillion blows.

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