Jorginho shoots Italy into the final on penalties after a archetypal fight with Spain

July 7, 2021

The fate of a thriller came down to just one person. Then you are bound to have lost your mind if you have been following the game carefully. Just moments before you would have laughed at Giorgio Chiellini’s comedic and mutual love filled encounter with Jordi Alba at the coin toss for the penalty where the German referee Felix Brych stood like a stone figurine unable to understand what had been going on but when Jorginho leaned in and adjusted the position of the ball at the penalty spot with the fate of his nation hanging on his boots you would have crossed your heart and hoped to die. What a game Spain had! But the entire 120 minutes seemed to have had evaporated from the minds of the Spanish supporters as Jorginho made his little customary hop and sent Unai Simon the wrong way as he had slid the ball low and calm at the back of the net and wiped away all those years of Italy’s despondency and filled them with the yearn of winning the European Championship after 53 years as they reached the final of the UEFA EURO 2020 after 9 years.

Chiellni’s camaradarie with Jordi Alba

Every thriller needs a climax they say, but in this case, there was an anti-climax. Last night before the game was on I came across an article where Lorenzo Insigne narrated his life story and how he had always been left behind because of his height. Breaking away from stereotypes is what Roberto Mancini’s Italian side has done. Insigne had been a natural choice in the attacking trio of Italy since the beginning of the tournament and he had been proving himself on the pitch in every game and he did not go purposeless last night as well.

 At the juncture of the 60th minute, Insigne cut out an intelligent pass for Immobile which changed its direction with Aymeric Laporte’s intervention but Federico Chiesa was quick as he pounced on it and sent his measured instep effort into the far corner from the left of the area and broke the deadlock.

Federico Chiesa’s goal

The shot felt as ‘Old as Time’ for Italy. The flashback that Roberto Mancini and all those Italian fans who are old enough to remember Enrico Chiesa father of Federico and ex-Italian international must have had at that moment when he saw Federico Chiesa replicate his father’s innate and intricate movement details on the pitch and put his country forward. It must have been euphoric for the 23-year-old Juventus midfielder, but you could see it in Roberto Mancini’s face and posture. He looked suave and tranquil as his grey hair and lean structure felt saint-like in the warm summer evening at Wembley as he put his hands in pocket and waited for the final whistle.

Chiesa’s celebration

On contrary to this scene, we had seen Luis Enrique all tensed, throwing in instructions to his players from the sidelines now and then as his fitted stature silhouetted a certain kind of urgency. Spain had an oscillating campaign as they paved their way to the semis. They constantly swayed between the sharp and the blunt edge of victory. Luis Enrique’s ‘verticality’ and his choice of starting eleven did not make sense. Although the attacking line of Mikel Oyrzabal, Dani Olmo, and Ferran Torres had created chaos in the composed Italian Defense wall led by Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, they were unable to make that one beautiful slice through it in the entire first half of the Spanish dominance.

The equalizer for the La Rojas had come in later stages and at the 80th minute when Dani Olmo and the substitute Alvaro Morata exchanged passes as the Juventus forward had busted his way in the Italian half and took a touch from his right foot and coolly sent the ball home with his left-footed low strike way past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Alvaro Morata’s strike went way past Donnarumma
Celebration continued

A moment to savor on for the Spanish brigade as the dugout jumped on to catch that ounce of joy for which they had worked hard throughout the entire match and finally they were rewarded. That moment had reminded me of one of Jose Mourinho’s famous quotes- “Magic is fictional and Football is reality”.

The quest to regain their old glory for Spain boiled down to the extra time and penalty shootout. They had been successful in putting all of Italy’s plans to bed as they stalled the Azzurri’s from gaining back the possession and put Immobile’s attacking prowess at bay with their tactical game plan. As for Pedri, the 18-year-old Blaugrana midfielder who had completed the game with 98% passing accuracy, the tears would not stop. Once the sadness had been ebbed there would be a sudden epiphany for Enrique and his team- he would be proud of how far his team came as the young generation built on high hopes of their dangerously talented predecessors exhibited their stern attitude for winning the tournament for three hours of the fixture.

Thiago Alcantara consoling Pedri

The extra time was an unruly affair. Spain had continued to press against a tired Italian side. Dani Olmo’s shot rebounded in the thicket of legs as Donnarumma was caught off-guard unable to hold the fierce, cross-shot and pushed it right out of the box. The resolute Italian defending brought to us by Chiellini and Bonucci (this dynamic duo had been suggested to fortify their way to the Harvard to teach central defending by the Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho) had made the ball feel heavier for the Spanish regime as they neutralized all their efforts with style. Domenico Berardi who had come on to replace Ciro Immobile had his goal ruled out due to offside. But as the minutes had come at a close the possibility of penalties came down with a certain sense of inevitability.

Berardi’s shot adjudged as offside

Giorgio Chiellini won the toss and chose to shoot towards the Italian end. Manuel Locatelli had his first kick saved. Dani Olmo could not handle the pressure of the 12 yards even after having an illustrious game as his shot flared up the woodwork. Andrea Belloti and Leonardo Bonucci did their part well which was parried by Gerard Moreno and Thiago Alcantara. Federico Bernardeschi put Italy 3-2 up as Alvaro Morata had failed to convert and Jorginho played the catalyst and fired his team way past Spain’s reach.

Jorginho’s celebration

The entire encounter had reverberated one single and otherwise clichéd line in my mind- “Football, bloody hell!” The focus now relocates to Wembley tonight where England is going to face an emotionally charged and uprising side, Denmark. Let’s hope to stay as entertained as last night as the dream of watching yet another eye twitching thriller continues.

Team News:

Italy: Donnarumma, Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson Palmieri, Barella, Jorginho, Verratti, Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne.
Subs: Sirigu, Locatelli, Belotti, Berardi, Pessina, Acerbi, Cristante, Bernardeschi, Bastoni, Florenzi, Toloi, Meret.

Spain: Simon, Azpilicueta, Garcia, Laporte, Jordi Alba, Koke, Busquets, Pedri, Ferran Torres, Oyarzabal, Olmo.
Subs: de Gea, Diego Llorente, Pau Torres, Marcos Llorente, Morata, Gerard, Thiago, Sanchez, Gaya, Rodri, Fabian, Traore.

Referee: Felix Brych (Germany).

Star of the Match: Federico Chiesa.

Federico Chiesa with the Star of the Match award