Italy were crowned European champions when England crashed into the penalties


Italy 1 – England 1 (after extra time)
Italy wins 3-2 on penalties

Italy deserved it, even if the victory came on penalties, the monkey on the back of England for decades.

Playing away from home in the Euro 2020 final, the Azzurri beat England, conceded just one shot on goal (Luke Shaw’s goal) and are now unbeaten in 34 games, the longest streak in their history.

This team is larger than the sum of its parts, but contains several notable individuals: former Juventus central defender duo Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, midfield twin players Jorginho and Marco Verratti and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, apparently complete at 22 and named tournament player.

Gareth Southgate’s England was overtaken however very organized as always, he did well to keep a better team for two hours of play and can be congratulated for his best performance in a tournament since 1966.

England captain Harry Kane told the BBC: “We should be very proud as a group of what we have achieved,” he added: “We have made good progress from Russia and now it is a matter of continuing with that. “.

Southgate said the players: “It has been an absolute joy to work with them and they have gone beyond what we have been for so long. But, of course, tonight is incredibly painful in this dressing room. You have to feel this disappointment because the opportunities to win trophies like this are so rare in your life ”.

This game followed the writing of most of England’s great games of the last few decades: taking an early lead and passing the rest of the game defending themselves from behind the wall, finally succumbing and losing on penalties.

With two minutes gone, a long pass from the defense of sparta resulted in a counterattack that set Kieran Trippier free through the middle, but the keeper made a spectacular diving save. Beckham’s ball forward, Trippier fired a precise cross to his right flank, without scoring on the left post. Shaw crowned an excellent tournament by breaking with an instant half volley.

Italian Andrea Belotti lifts the trophy after the Euro 2020 final © AP

Wembley had been waiting for this moment for 55 years. The stadium was moving, but dangerously. It seemed much larger than the official capacity of 60,000. People without tickets had incomplete securityand, in some tiers, all the seats seemed occupied, and then some: many were standing. Others arrived before overtime, and in the end some walkways were dangerous, with few steward interventions.

At first, Shaw’s goal seemed to have been to establish the game England wanted: to sit, to rely on his narrow defense he had conceded just once before in this tournament, to let Italy reach its massive ranks, and then wait to counter. with the pessimistic Raheem Sterling.

His central defensive trio, Harry Maguire, John Stones and Kyle Walker, as always, made almost no mistakes. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had regained his nerve after losing them the semifinal against Denmark.

Southgate always has a plan and, in general, their players adhere to it. When England had the ball, they tried to avoid the central midfield, the strongest place in Italy, where the Azzurri had a numerical advantage and the Jorginho-Verratti engine room.

England intended to play from the back directly to Shaw and Trippier by the bands or hit deep passes to Kane’s head. But Kane and especially Sterling barely got into the game, neutralized by Bonucci (deservedly named “party star”) and Chiellini.

England is not an aggressive pressure band and throwing three powerhouses meant giving up the middle of the field.

Since the end of the first half, Italy’s past plays have forced the English to defend themselves around their own penalty area, the area where a slip can mean disaster.

Italy were the most skillful side of the ball (90% of their passes were accurate, compared to only 78% of those in England), but they were also confident of passing more. If you provide a team as good as Italy with almost uninterrupted possession and are licensed to advance almost unhindered within 20 meters of your goal, they are likely to take advantage at some point.

The Azzurri took the lead 61 minutes into the game, making the score 1 – 1 after some elegant movement down the middle. Federico Chiesa was the scorer. But the goal came six minutes later, the logical consequence of an increasingly deep Italian territorial penetration. The scorer was most likely Bonucci, 34. An Italian corner caused a riot in the area. Pickford pushed Verratti’s header against the post, but the great Juventus player touched the rebound.

Southgate should have intervened to change England’s tactics before, but he did so only after doing the damage, sending Saka through Trippier and going from a five-to-four defense.

From then on, England managed to keep the ball more often and further away from their own danger zone.

In overtime, Italy’s threat subsided, with its main creator Verratti and Chiesa after being wounded. Southgate had sent the young wildcard dribbler, Jack Grealish, and danced around the Italian defenders, serenaded by Wembley as “Super, Super Jack.”

However, the statistics told the story of who had dominated the 120 minutes of play: Italy had 62% possession, completed 755 passes to 341 England and had six shots on goal in England. It is a tribute to the defensive organization of England that managed to bring this match to the penalties.

Southgate England will have felt safer from the shooting than any other recent national band. They had broken the country’s old penalty farce by beating Colombia in the 2018 World Cup shootout, and few parts practice more penalties or do a more thorough data analysis.

Just before the overtime ended, Southgate had sent Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho specifically for their skill in making penalties.

It was brave that they lined up. In the case, they were the first England players to fail, after Kane and Maguire had given unstoppable kicks. Maybe it’s too much to ask youngsters to get into a game of such cold importance and then almost immediately make the heaviest kicks in the history of English football.

When Donnarumma saved Saka, it was all over.

Italy had not even qualified for the last World Cup, a minimum in its modern football history. This victory crowned his exciting reinvention as a striker in front of manager Roberto Mancini. His 13 goals in Euro 2020 were the highest that the Azzurri have scored in a major tournament.

Italy will travel with confidence to the Qatar World Cup next year. But England, which is still a relatively young side with potential to grow, also has an outside trait.

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