Again, it ended in tears for England. It was a familiar story of heartbreak for the Three Lions at Wembley after so much renewed hope, optimism, and belief. Italy, who had gone 33 games without losing, gradually clawed their way back into the game, drawing level in the 67th minute when Leonardo Bonnuci pounced after England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford put Marco Verratti’s header against the post.
After a tight extra time failed to produce a winner. It was down to penalties and painful heartbreak for England manager Gareth Southgate and his players, who had entered the final on a wave of expectation and emotion.
Three of England’s five penalties were missed, with Marcus Rashford hitting the crossbar and Gianluigi Donnarumma thwarting Jadon Sancho, before Arsenal youth Bukayo Saka saw his spot-kick saved by the gigantic Italy goalkeeper.
England’s Harry Kane and Harry Maguire scored, while Italy’s Domenico Berardi, Bonucci, and Federico Bernardeschi scored, whilst also Pickford kept England’s hopes alive with saves against Andrea Belotti and Jorginho.
His teammates and manager consoled Saka, a weeping 19-year-old who had shown such bravery in stepping forward,, but there was no true comfort for them or the awaiting supporters at Wembley Stadium.
England come up short as Italy triumph
England’s suffering continues, but for the first 30 minutes of this final, it appeared like the moment the country had been waiting for for more than 20,000 days had finally arrived.
Southgate’s team exploded out of the blocks, and the manager’s one substitution – replacing Saka with Kieran Trippier – paid off immediately, as Trippier raced on to Kane’s beautiful pass to find the onrushing Shaw at the far post for an immediate goal.
England was up and running, spurred on by a raucous home crowd, and they had this brilliant, streetwise Italian team on the back foot until late in the first half, when they unexpectedly grabbed a foothold.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) July 11, 2021
It was no surprise when Italy restored equilibrium, then seemed the more likely winners as Southgate’s team, so full of running early on, began to labour, parity restored.
Southgate surprised many by waiting until extra time to introduce Jack Grealish, but the game had already been set up for penalties, which it was.
Sancho and Rashford were introduced late in the game, presumably in preparation for penalties, but unfortunately for Southgate, who has gotten so much right in Euro 2020, this was one move that did not pay off, as both of their spot-kicks were missed.
Southgate and his players looked devastated as they received sympathetic applause from England’s fans, who had come to Wembley with great aspirations but left with their dreams of a big trophy crushed once more.
Italy worthy winners
While Italy’s players and staff celebrated in front of their ecstatic fans, manager Roberto Mancini was left to reflect on an excellent performance, with his team going 34 games without losing and winning Euro 2020.
Mancini has put together a fantastic blend of youth and experience at the back, and he can still rely on the two ancient warhorses of Juventus and Italy, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, who are as tough as they come.
Italy demonstrated their quality in the knockout round with victories over Belgium and Spain, and they were undaunted by the prospect of playing in front of a raucous Wembley crowd.
And that was all done after Russia’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, which was viewed as a national sporting embarrassment.