England’s efforts to end the 55-year-old wait for the big trophy ended in the usual pain of defeat during the penalty shootout as Italy won the Euro 2020 title at Wembley.
On a night of anticipation, complete frustration, and heartbreak in the feverish atmosphere, England looked forward to its happiest day since July 30, 1966, when Luke Shaw gave them a good start after two minutes.
Italy, unbeaten in 33 games before the final, slowly turned back into the game. And were level in the 67th minute when Leonardo Bonucci hit after England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford turned Marco Verratti‘s header onto a post.
And after a tense period of extra time, they failed to find a winner. There was a lot of frustration and disappointment for England manager Gareth Southgate and his players, who had come to the final on a wave of expectation and high emotion.
England lost three of five penalties. With Marcus Rashford hitting the post and Gianluigi Donnarumma denying Jadon Sancho earlier. The cruelty for such a young player, Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka also saw the Italian goalkeeper save his shot.
Harry Kane and Harry Maguire scored for England. But, while Pickford kept their hopes alive by saving Andrea Belotti and Jorginho, Domenico Berardi, Bonucci, and Federico Bernardeschi scored for Italy.
The weeping 19-year-old Saka, who had shown the courage to move forward, was comforted by his teammates and manager. But there was no real consolation for them or the expectant fans packed into Wembley.
England lost as Italy triumphs.
England’s injury season continues, but it was expected in the first 30 minutes of the final that the country’s moment waiting for more than 20,000 days has finally come to an end.
The Southgate side came out on the block. One change of manager, replacing Saka with Kieran Trippier, paid off a quick assignment as Trippier ran into Kane’s right pass to find the winning Shaw in the distance. He had slammed an emphatic finish past Donnarumma.
England was up and running and urged on by a vast, frenzied crowd. That they had this talented and streetwise Italian side on the back foot until they suddenly gained a foothold in the closing phase of the first half.
Italy took the lead, and it came as no surprise when they regained their balance. And then looked to the top winners as the Southgate team, full of early runners, started to work. Especially after losing the outstanding Declan Rice to a knock.
Southgate waited surprisingly until extra time to introduce Jack Grealish. But at the time, the game was locked in a penalty shootout, so it proved.
Sancho and Rashford went into the closing stages, presumably in readiness for penalties. But sadly, Southgate, who has got so much right in Euro 2020, was the only step they missed as they both failed to hit the ball.
Pickford performed heroics to save two penalties.
Pickford has performed heroics to save the two penalties. But he was also left in tears after England’s fate was sealed.
In addition, Italy has edged over the line. And both Southgate and his players looked frustrated as they took sympathetic applause from the England fans. They arrived with high hopes but left Wembley with their dreams of a major cup shattered again.
England came close when they reached the semi-final of the World Cup in Moscow in 2018. But this loss will cut even deeper than that after they made such smooth progress to the final. And they also had the good chance to finally claim a second trophy in what was effectively a home tournament with its climax at Wembley.
They have made progress, but still, England has not been able to clear the final hurdle.
Improving England offers real hope.
England’s loss will be felt in the aftermath after such good progress through the relegation zone by defeating Germany, Ukraine, and Denmark.
Southgate must now digest whether he got it right in the final regarding his approach, substitutions, and penalty-takers. But when the dust settles, England can reflect on all the progress they made.
England took one step further than they did lastly in Russia. And Southgate now with a potent combination of youth and experience working with them to plan for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Saka has reached adulthood in the tournament when England has exciting youngsters like Sancho, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, and Jude Bellingham, augmented by Grealish.
Raheem Sterling had a stellar campaign. Kane showed off his world-class talent, and John Stones and Maguire’s middle defense team was strong. Pickford also made an outstanding contribution to the goal.
This will not give us comfort in the following hours lost so much. But England can at least move forward with hope.
Italy, the worthy winners.
While the Italian players and staff celebrated in front of their delighted fans, the team manager Roberto Mancini was left to reflect on an outstanding job. Their 34th unbeaten game won the Euro 2020 title.
Mancini has incorporated an impressive combination of youth and experience. At the back, he can still rely on the two old horses of Juventus and Italy. Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini as strong as ever despite their 70s.
Italy showed its interest by defeating Belgium and Spain in the knockout stage. And they did not panic over Wembley, packed with England fans.
And it was all done after failing to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which was considered a national humiliation.
Now the team Italy is back as the winners of Euro 2020. This is a testimony to the work of Mancini and his players.