What a night, what a journey and what a team.
After nearly a month of action-packed football, Gareth Southgate has done so much right in European Championships 2020, yet no redemption or fairytale climax. The final match ended with Gianluigi Donnarumma managing to get both hands on Bukayo Saka’s decisive penalty, thus crowning Gli Azzurri with their second European Championships trophy. For once and for all, Sweet Caroline, the unofficial English national anthem, was quelled – confirmed, it’s coming to Rome.
The revelation of Luke Shaw
In almost three hours of action at Wembley, the formidable Azzurri won in a dramatic penalty shootout, and England’s decades of agony continues – sadly, it’s not coming home. Having the easiest route to a final in this campaign, the Three Lions missed out on a historic chance to win their second international trophy at home after England’s penalty shootout demons return to haunt the team this time.
During the first half of normal time, England appeared to be in complete control after Luke Shaw scored less than two minutes into the game. The Manchester United left-back got to the back post to be in the perfect position to score when Kieran Trippier delivered a pinpoint cross for him. He then rifled a shot past Donnarumma and set off a delirious celebration at Wembley.
It was as if football was finally coming home, leaving Roberto Mancini’s Italy in shocked. Southgate’s tactics, which included the return to a wing-back system appeared to be well-thought-out in terms of keeping Italy at bay. Before the half-time break, Federico Chiesa fired a warning shot to the Three Lions’ goalpost, whistling a low strike that went just wide of the target.
Federico Chiesa shines as Italy wins
Not only English fans failed to respect their opponents’ national anthem, but this defeat is much needed to humble these disrespectful fans. It is even more heartbreaking for them, who had arrived full of optimism, only to leave Wembley disappointed yet again. Although Azzurri doesn’t feature many marquee names in the forwards as other countries’ teams, but they were experienced enough to know how to win. It took some time, and the much-deserved equaliser arrived at 67th minute through Leonardo Bonucci’s goal.
The young players on Southgate’s team began to show signs of trepidation as the stress mounted to unbearable levels. England let the ball slip from their sides too easily, and the Italians showed remarkable resolve in bouncing back and retaking the lead. There is no denying that this current Italy squad has performed superbly in this tournament so far. They came back very focused, held their composure and grit as a unit in the second half. This result could have turned out otherwise for a typical team, but this Azzurri is an out-of-the-ordinary team.
Hard luck for Three Lions
Alas, Southgate was too scared to lose that he chose to play defensively despite being blessed with a massive amount of talented youth in the likes of Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden. His cautious and deliberate approach finally backfired in a night where they could have easily wrapped up in 90 minutes. He has plenty of attacking talent with lethal offensive ability that gone wasted, which is proven last Sunday. Three Lions couldn’t find a second goal, so Italy outplayed them and were the team that was more dangerous to watch as the match wore on.
There were parallels to England’s loss to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semifinals: a slim lead through the first half, but then an emphatic defeat for the opponent. Southgate’s tardy substitution in bringing Grealish to make a massive difference, but to no avail. Because by that point, the game was already headed for penalties. Sancho and Marcus Rashford came on presumably to provide energy for penalties barely had the ball led many to questions – if only they were brought on sooner, their pace could have enabled them to find the breakthrough.
Mancini’s calmness inarguably out-coached the England manager by making the right moves at the right time and delivered his promise to return Italy to its rightful place – at the top of Europe. As for Southgate, his play safe approach, his questionable tactics, his lamentable choices of penalty kickers, thus he deserves to wait.
Italian Renaissance under Roberto Mancini
Mancini’s tactics drew out the best in his squad – through Italy’s defensive fraternity, impeccable centre-back duo, passion for the game and for winning, they brought glory to Italy. This was the same team that had failed to qualify for the World Cup three years ago, reverberating shame throughout the football-loving nation. They are an often-daring team with the confidence to attempt the seemingly impossible and, belief is half the battle. Gli Azzurri competes as a team. This great victory earned was rightfully theirs, and the win at Wembley serves as a testament to the exceptional quality of the team. For an entire generation of Italian football fans, the good times have never been better, and these are probably days to the start of something they could tell their children about decades from now.