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Italy inflict more penalty heartache on England to win Euro 2020 final

11 Jul 2021 By AFP

Italy inflicted more penalty heartache on England to win Sunday’s Euro 2020 final 3-2 in a shoot-out, Bukayo Saka missing the decisive kick to deny the hosts after the game at Wembley had ended in a draining 1-1 draw through extra time.

Saka’s kick was repelled by Gianluigi Donnarumma to give Italy the Henri Delaunay trophy for the second time, completing a remarkable turnaround for a team that failed to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Italy’s triumph came at the end of a shoot-out 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 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 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 and the decision to let the 19-year-old Saka step up when he did was a questionable one.

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.

“We win and lose as a team and the penalty-takers were my call,” Southgate said.

“That is my decision, it is not down to the players but tonight it didn’t go for us.”

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 Euro finals in little over two decades.

However, they have been the outstanding team in this competition, beating Belgium and Spain on their way to the final.

“We have been saying that something magical was in the air since the end of May, day after day,” said skipper Giorgio Chiellini.

“It’s an incredible emotion, and we savour it because it is magnificent. We conceded a goal straight away but we dominated the whole game.”

– Baying crowd –

Roberto Mancini’s team will now go back to Rome to celebrate, and yet they initially 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 for Saka in the only change from their semi-final, reverting to a five-man defence.

Within two minutes England broke forward, Harry Kane supplying Trippier who crossed from the right to the far post for Shaw to score 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.

– Italian fightback –

Italy had a constant threat in Federico Chiesa but the final only swung their way in the second half.

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 converted the rebound and celebrated with the Italy fans massed at that end of Wembley.

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

England 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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