Italy Conquer Wembley
Jul 12, 2021 by Stewart Coggin
Italy won the European Championships for the first time since 1968 after defeating England in a penalty shoot-out at Wembley.
The match ended 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra-time could not separate the sides, with Italy taking part in their second shoot-out in six days after defeating Spain by the same method on Tuesday.
Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho both missed for England, with Andrea Belotti and Jorginho seeing their efforts saved by Jordan Pickford before Bukayo Saka stepped up to take England’s fifth penalty. His effort was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma to trigger jubilant scenes among Italy players and fans.
England were the better side in the first-half and took the lead after just two minutes when Kieran Trippier crossed for Luke Shaw to fire past Donnarumma at the near post.
Italy, unbeaten in 33 matches, grew in confidence before the break and outplayed England for long spells in the second-half. Their equaliser, when it came, was well deserved as Leonardo Bonucci pounced after Jordan Pickford had turned Marco Verratti’s header onto the post.
Chances were few and far between in extra-time, with England rarely looking like adding to Shaw’s effort as they bid to end a trophyless run dating back to their sole World Cup win in 1966.
Rashford and Sancho were brought on in the dying seconds of injury time to step up in the shoot-out, which was a move that backfired for England manager Gareth Southgate, who has got so much right in this tournament. The wisdom of selecting the 19-year-old Saka to take England’s decisive fifth penalty was also called into question on a difficult night for the home side.
Southgate stressed after the game that he’d like to take England to the World Cup in Qatar next year but that he needed to first recuperate after an energy sapping few weeks.
“As I sit here today, I would want to be taking the team to Qatar,” he said.
“We of course have to qualify for Qatar. I need some time to watch last night’s game again, to reflect on the tournament. “I need a rest. It’s an amazing experience to lead your country in these tournaments, but it takes its toll.”
His opposite number Roberto Mancini broke down in tears at the end of an emotional game.
“It was the emotion which happens after achieving something incredible. It was the emotion of seeing the guys celebrate and the fans in the stands,” he said.
“Seeing everything we have managed to create, all of the hard work we have put in over the last three years, but specifically the last 50 days which have been very hard.
“It’s the fact we have been able to forge this team spirit over the last 50 days, they have really created something which can never be separated going forward. They will always be synonymous with this triumph.”
/Stewart Sports news editor