Sunday, August 1, 2021

Italy 1-1 England (Italy win 3-2 on penalties): Major Talking Points As The Azzurri Are Crowned European Champions

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, European Championships 12 Jul 2021

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While many expected England to end their 55 years of hurt on Sunday night, The Three Lions’ wait for international glory will only go on as they watched Italy break their hearts from the penalty spot.

Despite taking a 1-0 lead after just two minutes thanks to Luke Shaw’s fizzed effort, the 67,173 fans in Wembley had to endure a nail-biting finale to this summer’s European Championships.

Struggling to match a similar level that they set in the opening exchanges, Italy’s Leonardo Bonucci deservedly equalled the scoreline after 67 minutes and epitomized what was another rugged display by Roberto Mancini’s men.

With Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka missing the crucial penalty amidst heartbreaking scenes in England’s camp, we have taken a look at the major talking points as The Azzurri lifted their second European crown at Wembley.

Italy battle back

After watching Luke Shaw open the scoring with just a couple of minutes on the clock, Italy knew that they really had to regroup and there is no doubt that The Azzurri steamrolled their way back into Sunday’s finale at Wembley.

Gaining a string of plaudits from across Europe after opening their campaign with a 3-0 romp against Turkey, The Blues quickly grew into the game and Roberto Mancini’s second-half adjustments helped his side dominate large spells of the game.

Forcing an impressive Jordan Pickford into a couple of vital second-half saves, the former Manchester City boss will still be most impressed by his side’s resilient display in front of a hostile England support in the capital.

In fact, Italy found themselves trailing in a game for the first time at Euro 2020, while overall they spent 65 minutes behind against England in the final, 21 more than they had been behind in their 33-game unbeaten run (in all competitions) coming into the final (44).

Coming from behind and eventually a deserved winner on an emotional night in North London, it is hard to argue that Mancini didn’t outmanoeuvre the man who stood in his opposite dugout on Sunday night.

English heartbreak

Still on a real high after landing themselves that famous 2-0 victory against arch-rivals Germany in their first knockout tie, many from across England tipped The Three Lions as the leading contender to lift their first international crown since 1966.

However, failing to maintain their early flurry and the chance to build off of Shaw’s quickfire opener, Gareth Southgate’s ultra-defensive approach in the second-half, along with his late substitutions, has seen him come under some scrutiny from fans and pundits alike.

Eventually finishing Sunday’s final and their chance to make history with just 34.4%, their lowest possession in a game at Wembley since November 2016, the decision to replace Declan Rice with a quarter of an hour left was a call the raised plenty of eyebrows.

Taken to penalties and desperate to try and replicate what they managed against Colombia out in Russia three years ago, the decision to chuck on both Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford seconds before the final whistle seemed like a naive call.

With either unable to get into in form of rhythm before stepping up from 12 yards, both Manchester United forwards were unable to convert and the match was finally decided as second-half sub Bukayo Saka saw his effort palmed away by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The Azzurri make history

While England fans might have been left heartbroken following Saka’s decisive penalty miss on Sunday night, the celebrations in Italy’s camp underlined what has been a stunning resurge under the guidance of Mancini.

Missing out on a spot at the World Cup finals in Russia three years ago, The Azzurri have only continued on a remarkable run of form that now sees them deservedly crowned as the defending European champions.

Lifting their first European title in 53 years, the longest ever gap between championships in the tournament by a single nation, Italy have become a real fan favourite with neutrals across the continent.

Showing that grit and desire to come from 1-0 down with just a couple of minutes on the clock, the former Manchester City boss has also seen his side continue to break a host of long-standing records throughout their summer adventure.

With Mancini cementing his spot in Italian folk law, The Blues managed to come past both fellow European heavyweights Belgium and Spain in their knockout run and Sunday’s victory at Wembley was their 34th straight contest without tasting defeat, a run that stems back to September 2018.

Match Report

England: Pickford (8), Trippier (7), Walker (6), Stones (7), Maguire (7.5), Shaw (7.5), Phillips (7), Rice (8), Mount (6), Sterling (6), Kane (5.5)

Subs: Rashford (N/A), Sancho (N/A), Saka (8), Grealish (6.5)

Italy: G Donnarumma (7.5), Di Lorenzo (5), Bonucci (7.5), Chiellini (7.5), Emerson (5.5), Barella (7.5), Jorginho (7), Verratti (8), Chiesa (8), Immobile (4), Insigne (6.5)

Subs: Belotti (4), Berardi (6.5), Bernardeschi (6), Locatelli (7), Cristante (6), Florenzi (N/A)

Goals: England: Shaw 2′ – Italy: Bonucci 67′

Yellow Cards: England: Maguire – Italy: Bonucci, Chiellini, Jorginho, Insigne

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: Björn Kuipers

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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