Saturday, July 24, 2021

Italy 1-1 Spain (aet, 4-2 pens): Morata miss costly as Azzurri reach Euro 2020 final

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 6 Jul 2021

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Alvaro Morata went from hero to zero at Wembley after rescuing extra time for Spain before missing a penalty in the shoot-out as Italy booked their place in the Euro 2020 final.

The Juventus loanee was left out of Spain’s starting line-up for the first time this tournament but made an impact from the bench by cancelling out Federico Chiesa’s superb curled opener 10 minutes from time as the game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes.

Neither side could find a way through in the additional period in what was a repeat of the 2012 final, which Spain won 4-0 for their third European title, though it was Italy who prevailed in Tuesday’s enthralling clash.

Morata’s penalty was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, paving the way for Jorginho to convert the winning spot-kick in a 4-2 shoot-out triumph, as Italy extended their unbeaten run to 33 games to set up a clash with either England or Denmark in Sunday’s final at the same ground. 

Nicolo Barella chipped an audacious effort against the post early on, though the offside flag went up soon after, while Donnarumma was equal to Dani Olmo’s shot 10 minutes later from the only on-target effort of the first half.

Italy’s first shot of any note arrived just before half-time when Emerson’s angled drive clipped the top of the crossbar, their longest wait for a shot in a European Championship game since playing against the Netherlands at Euro 2000.

But it was Italy who opened the scoring after Donnarumma launched a counter following a spell of Spain pressure and, after Aymeric Laporte’s clearance fell to Chiesa, the Juventus winger took a few touches and picked out the bottom-right corner.

A couple of chances fell Spain’s way in quick succession after falling behind, but Mikel Oyarzabal somehow failed to make any contact with Koke’s cross and Olmo drilled a first-time shot just wide.

La Roja were good value for their equaliser when it arrived, though, with Morata – brought on after Chiesa’s goal – playing a one-two with Olmo and coolly slotting past Donnarumma to become Spain’s outright top-scoring player at the Euros with six goals.

Luis Enrique’s side had the better of extra time, with Italy seemingly happy to take a shoot-out, though they were given a scare when Domenico Berardi found the net before the offside flag went up.

Spain overcame Switzerland on penalties in the last round and looked good value to do likewise against Italy when Manuel Locatelli’s penalty was saved by Unai Simon.

However, Olmo blazed over from the next spot-kick and, after the next five penalties were converted, Morata’s weak effort was stopped by Donnarumma to set up Jorginho to coolly roll home the winning effort.

What does it mean? Azzurri march on

Italy are through to their 10th major tournament final – only Germany (14) have reached more among European nations – and Roberto Mancini’s side look good value to lift the European Championship trophy for the first time since 1968.

The Azzurri are unbeaten since September 2018 and have now won 14 games in a row, which includes an extra-time victory over Austria in the last 16, a well-earned 2-1 win against Belgium in the quarter-finals and now this penalty triumph against Spain.

It is the first time La Roja have failed to advance from the semi-final of a major tournament, having won each of the previous five, and Luis Enrique will argue his side were hard done by as they dominated possession (70 per cent) and the shot count (16-7).

Busquets and Pedri boss midfield battle

They may have ended up on the losing side, but Busquets and Pedri were superb in the middle of the park for a Spain side that attempted 908 passes.

Pedri in particular stood out as he completed all 56 of his passes in 90 minutes – only France’s Samuel Umtiti (76/76) has ever completed more with 100 per cent passing accuracy in a European Championship match since records began in 1980.

Morata’s mixed match

Luis Enrique made a big call going with Oyarzabal up top in place of Morata and the Real Sociedad attacker created a game-high three chances, despite being substituted after 70 minutes.

However, Oyarzabal also wasted a couple of big chances and would have been grateful to see Morata rescue extra time for his side, only for the much-maligned striker to then miss his penalty in the shoot-out.

Key Opta Facts:

– Italy are only the second European nation to win each of their first six games at a major tournament after Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup. Indeed, Italy’s six wins at Euro 2020 is their joint-most victories at a single major tournament alongside World Cup 1990.

– This was the 10th occasion both Spain and Italy have competed in a penalty shoot-out at a major tournament, more than any other European nations. This was the second time the two sides have faced off in a shoot-out at a major tournament, with each side now picking up a victory apiece (Spain won in 2008).

– Italy versus Spain (10) became the most played fixture amongst European nations in major tournament history.

– This was the ninth time Italy have gone to extra time at the Euros, more than any other team, while Spain equalled the record for extra time appearances at a single edition of the competition (three – level with Portugal in 2016).

– Italy have scored 12 goals at Euro 2020, their joint-highest total at a major tournament, alongside World Cup 2006, World Cup 1982 and World Cup 1934. Indeed, Spain have scored 13 goals at Euro 2020, their best goal return at a single edition of the European Championships.

What’s next?

Italy will be back at Wembley on Sunday to face either England or Denmark, who meet in the other semi-final on Wednesday. As for Spain, they are not back in action until early September with a World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

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