Football goes to Rome as Italy defeat England in the finale of the UEFA EURO 2020 and crown themselves as the Champion of Europe

July 12, 2021

“FOOTBALL’S COMING ROME”- An Italian fan just outside Wembley had held this placard proudly just before Italy faced Spain in their semis and it became the anthem of the Italian spirit on Wembley last night. England look what you made the Italians do. Now, instead of singing their ‘Campioni’ chorus with their familiar tone, they are singing to the tunes of “It’s Coming Home” but the edited version- “It’s Coming Rome”.

Italy is the Champion of Europe. It’s the final verdict of the day. Roberto Mancini and Company had done it. What a high-powered encounter! They had come to London and conquered Wembley. The character, the passion, the attitude, and the fearless pursuit of the trophy that was deservedly theirs’ to earn, and despite conceding in the earlier stages of the game they came back even stronger than before. Mancini’s three-year stint with 34 games unbeaten and the least number of goals conceded this ‘rejuvenated Italian side’ is a delight to watch.

After 120 minutes of intense struggle and nerve-shredding moments between these two feisty sides, every single effort by those 22 players along with the substitutes had boiled down to those dreadful 12 yards. As the 96’ flashbacks had come flooding into the mind of Gareth Southgate and the entire nation, he prepared for his ultimate redemption as he was seen to be discussing the penalty order with his assistant coach. Jordan Pickford knelt like a miniature figurine under the 440 ft high Wembley arch waiting for his turn of instructions. The penalty is just like the lottery. But aren’t we always told that Luck favors those who put in the hard work day in day out? In this case, it did but the narrative was quite different from what the Britishers wanted it to be.

The Three Lions’ had initiated the game in their rhythm when the full-back system of Southgate came effective which got them to the driving seat of the game. The English skipper had broken in from an Italian corner and spread a pass in for Tripper at the right and the Athletico Madrid full-back floated in a brilliant cross towards the farther post for Shaw who slithered in unnoticed and fired a crisp left-footed half volley and it went way past Donnarumma at the back of the net. Wembley had erupted with celebration with only two minutes in the clock as Luke Shaw scored the fastest ever goal in the EURO finals.

Luke Shaw’s goal
England’s celebration

 The momentum of the passes between the English players had been phenomenal for the next half an hour as they progressed inside the Italian defensive third with bold strides. Whenever there is an early goal in a finale the game tends to be slowed down a bit by the side that is in front foot but England had just refused to lull it a scale lower as they thrived in the pandemonium. Italy was nowhere to be seen for that period as it had been dominated by the home side. They were lighted up with the hope of bringing the trophy back after 55 years of agony.

Everything had being going wrong for Italy as they started giving away silly challenges in the midfield, the full-backs Di Lorenzo and Emerson could not control the break-ins from the English attackers. Chiesa had started dropping into the defense just to provide an extra body in the line and Immobile’s run was tracked down well by Phillips, Trippier, and Rice. Insigne was falling short of attacking techniques.

Insigne in action

The game had unfolded as the Italians gained back their courage and nerve amid those 66,000 English fans screaming their hearts out as they clinched their way back to the steering wheel. Federico Chiesa’s exquisite effort at the 35th minute which went narrowly wide and it had announced that the Azzurri’s are not going home with that result. The first-half ended with England up but Italy looked dangerous in the closing ten minutes of the half.

Chiesa in action

This is where the expertise of a Manager comes in. When you are 1-0 down at the half-time of a finale, you have got to figure out a way to create problems for your opponents. Mancini did just that. He had made two changes at the 54th minute as he brought in Bryan Cristante in place of Barella and Domenico Berardi to replace Ciro Immobile and it worked out for them smoothly. The inclusion of Cristante in the attack alongside Chiesa and Insigne had forced England to block Cristante which freed up spaces for Insigne and Chiesa to put it defense splitting passes and teasing shots which tested the English backline.

Roberto Mancini with the trophy

The Azzurri’s restored the parity to the scoreline at the 67th minute, Berardi’s corner from the right created chaos inside the penalty area as Pickford expertly turned away Verrati’s header onto the post but Leonardo Bonucci found the rebound and shot the ball with his left foot from a point blank range with Maguire looking down upon as it went home. The euphoria and the frenzy of the handful of Italian fans had been way beyond words as one of the oldest campaigners of the revitalized Italian side with 109 caps for his country was at the right place at the right time. He did not let his nation down when it needed him the most.

Bonucci’s equalizer
Chiellin’s celebration with Bonucci and Di Lorenzo

The irony of life kicks in these situations. The whole of the British media had been claiming the fact that it would come home and uniting the nation based on England’s somewhat floundering performance where they almost struggled their way to the final after half a century and what is the prize of all this. A coach’s gut should always be designed to make certain important decisions on which the fate of the entire team stands on. But in Gareth Southgate’s case, it was quite the opposite. In these dire straits, you need to stand up, be bold, take risks and show what you are carved out of. England failed to do so. The first error they had committed when they brought on Bukayo Saka in place of Kieran Trippier. The second mistake was not building up the striking force well as Harry Kane did not get a comfortable shot for the entirety of the match and Sterling had been getting isolated whenever they transformed from 5-2-3 defensive formation to 3-5-2 attacking format and thus letting the game slip away into the extra time.

Southgate after the loss

Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, and Jadon Sancho had been deployed very late as according to Southgate the only job that these three would have been fit for is to take penalties. Well from that point of view also his ambitions were far-fetched. As, Berardi scored from the spot and Belotti missed both the Harry’s of the squad punched their way in. Bonucci scored yet again but Marcus Rashford hit the woodwork. Beranardeschi took the lead but Jorginho whose shot took the Azzurri’s to the final missed his chance. The responsibility of bringing the Cup back home had fall upon the shoulders of Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka but the 22-year-old Italian custodian took to the field and saved their shots and the Azzuri’s carried their first European Championship prize to Rome.

Donnarumma’s celebration after the win

The Italians won on day one and they won again on the 51st day and what a feeling that must have been like. To keep their unbeaten run intact with such a spirited and motivated side with Gianluigi Donnarumma being the youngest ever player to win the Player of the tournament; the solid defensive partnership of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci; the talented prodigy of Federico Chiesa; the midfield brilliance of Jorginho; the super subs with the likes of Pessina, Locatelli, Berardi, Bryan Cristante who saved the day’s and last but not the least Leonardo Spinazzola, the man who posed threats at the left back position till he suffered an injury. This side was a mixed bag of experience topped off with the sparkle of young talents as Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli spiked them to the heights the Italians would not have imagined and they soared their way throughout the tournament even after being eliminated out of the last World Cup.

The entire Italian squad

Team News:

England: Jordan Pickford; Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Mason Mount; Harry Kane (capt), Raheem Sterling

Italy: Gianluigi Donnarumma; Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini (capt), Emerson Palmieri; Nicolo Barella, Jorginho, Marco Verratti; Federico Chiesa, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne

Awards and accolades:

Star of the Match: Leonardo Bonucci

Bonucci with the trophy and his Star of the Match award

Player of the tournament: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Young Player of the tournament: Pedri Gonzalez (Spain)

Top scorer of the tournament: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

The Trophy is in safe hands