Italy will have a shot at their first European title for 53 years after overcoming Spain on penalties in Tuesday’s Euro 2020 semi-final.
Four-time world champions Italy were taken to extra-time at Wembley, where Alvaro Morata cancelled out Federico Chiesa’s opener to ensure it was 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Neither side could find the breakthrough during the additional half hour and Manuel Locatelli and Dani Olmo failed with the opening penalties for their respective sides.
But Morata turned from hero to villain when Gianluigi Donnarumma saved his tame spot-kick and Jorginho converted to book a final showdown with either England or Denmark.
For Spain, and Morata in particular, this night could have ended up feeling very different indeed.
Italy claim the spoils in latest instalment of titanic rivalry
At the expense of their fellow heavyweights, Italy reached the 10th major tournament final and fourth in this competition. Only Germany (14) have competed in more among European nations.
Spain chalked up an unwanted first, having progressed on each of their previous five semi-final appearances at World Cups and European Championships.
Luis Enrique’s side went the distance for a third consecutive match after beating Croatia 5-3 in extra time and seeing off Switzerland in a quarter-final shoot-out – equalling the record for the most extra-time periods in a single Euro (Portugal, 2016).
No side have been taken to extra time more often in the history of the competition than Italy (nine).
History before heartbreak for Morata
Morata has been a focus of derision for some throughout this tournament and, unfortunately, it looks like there will be plenty more of that to come.
Before kick-off at Wembley it even looked as if Luis Enrique had lost faith.
The Spain boss has been a staunch defender of his main forward in the face of persistent criticism, but opted to go with a fluid front three of Ferran Torres, Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal.
Morata entered the fray in place of Manchester City forward Torres in the 62nd minute and coolly dispatched Spain’s equaliser with 10 to play in normal time.
The Juventus man has now scored more goals at the European Championship than any other Spain player with six, overtaking Fernando Torres.
He is also in rarefied company as the second player to scored three or more times in multiple Euros after Cristiano Ronaldo, who has done so on three occasions.
Playing for Chelsea in 2017-18, Morata scored in a 2-0 FA Cup semi-final win over Southampton, meaning on Tuesday he became the first Spanish player to net at Wembley for both club and country.
Morata’s is a truly accomplished body of work and one he can hopefully take solace in over the tough days and weeks ahead.
Chiesa helps Italy to share the load
Roberto Mancini’s freewheeling attack were denied their usual joy by Spain during the opening stages.
Left-back Emerson hit the crossbar in the 45th minute – Italy’s first shot of the game and their longest wait for an attempt on goal in the tournament.
Indeed, only versus the Netherlands at Euro 2000 have they had to wait so long in the modern era, with the Oranje keeping the Azzurri at bay until the 48th minute.
As in the last 16 against Austria, Chiesa was again on target at Wembley,
That meant Italy became the second team in the European Championship history after winners France at Euro 2000 to have five different players score two or more goals in a single tournament.
Chiesa joined Locatteli, Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Matteo Pessina on two for the competition.
Italy’s 12 goals at Euro 2020 is their joint-highest tally at a major tournament alongside the 2006, 1982 and 1934 World Cups. On each of those occasions, they left with the trophy.
Perfection for pass master Pedri
Spain outperformed many pre-tournament expectations and in Pedri, they have a potential superstar of the global game for years to come.
The Barcelona midfielder is the first ever player to start six games in a single Euro or World Cup aged 18 or below.
In normal time, Pedri completed all 56 of his passes, including 37 in the Italy half. He became the second player in Euros history to record 100 per cent accuracy after 90 minutes, although France’s Samuel Umtiti (76/76 at Euro 2016) probably had an easier route to his statistics from centre-back.
At the end of extra time, he had completed 65 of 67 passes. Nobody’s perfect, eh?
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