Penalties curse strikes again as Italy beat England to become Euro 2020 champions

Leonardo Bonucci celebration, Italy v England, Euro 2020 final,

Italy were crowned champions of Euro 2020 after a spirited England performance saw them come up short on penalties at Wembley.

England returned to five at the back ahead of only their second major final in the country’s history. That saw Kieran Trippier recalled at right-wingback with Bukayo Saka the unfortunate man to miss out. Italy, meanwhile, opted for consistency by naming the same eleven that edged past Spain in the semi-finals.

With the Wembley crowd roaring the home side on, England made the best possible start by scoring the fastest ever goal in European Championship final history inside two minutes.

A sweeping move started by Luke Shaw saw the ball break to Kieran Trippier down the right. Showing great composure, the full-back took his time before picking out Shaw in stride to half-volley beyond Gianluigi Donnarumma inside the near post.

Showing none of the nerves many might have expected, England continued to attack at will and pose Italy’s experienced backline persistent problems.

Harry Kane was dropping deep and assuming the role of playmaker as we have become so accustomed to seeing with Tottenham. With 20 minutes played, the Three Lions looked likeliest to notch the game’s next goal.

Kane was faring surprisingly well against Giorgio Chiellini and Leaonardo Bonucci in the air, and his aerial prowess almost crafted an opening for Raheem Sterling.

A clever piece of interplay between Mason Mount and Sterling almost provided the latter with a sight of goal after Kane’s knock-down. But the the last-ditch interception from the scrambling Italy backline prevented a golden opportunity for Sterling.

Federico Chiesa then fired a warning shot when whistling a low strike narrowly wide after proving too hot to handle for Declan Rice. For as long as England remained only one up, the game would always be on a knife edge.

The otherwise outstanding Rice had again proved Southgate correct to select him alongside Kalvin Phillips in a two. The pair had hustled and harried their Italian counterparts to the point of madness as the first half drew to a close.

Hearts were in mouths when Lorenzo Insigne stood over a free-kick in a dangerous position soon after the interval. Fortunately for those of an English persuasion, the forward’s radar went awry with his effort flying harmlessly wide.

Italy had greater purpose about their play in the second half and began to dominate the possession stakes. Jordan Pickford was called into action to deny the lively Insigne at the near post from point blank range.

The stopper was quickly becoming the most important player on the pitch when again required to preserve England’s lead from Chiesa.

Italy were knocking at the door and it soon swung open when Bonucci levelled the scores from a corner. England failed to clear the ball with three attempts before Pickford flicked an effort onto the post. Showcasing an unlikely predator’s instinct, Bonucci was on hand to sweep home to make it 1-1.

Southgate responded by bringing Jordan Henderson and Bukayo Saka on for Declan Rice and Kieran Trippier. But with 15 minutes of normal time remaining, Italy were breaking through England’s ranks at will.

A lengthy stoppage to administer treatment to Chiesa then halted their momentum and allowed England to gather their composure.

The final moments played out with little in the way of goalmouth action as another 30 minutes of football loomed in extra time.

Phillips flashed a long-range strike wide after a corner fell to the Leeds man outside the area. The lull that had descended over the Wembley crowd for much of the last half hour then gave way to cautious optimism upon Jack Grealish’s introduction to the action for Mount.

Grealish’s influence on the contest began to grow in the second period before Jorginho caught the Villa talisman on the knee with his studs. Jorginho’s foot has rebounded off the ball onto Grealish’s leg and could consider himself lucky to escape with just a yellow.

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford came on in the final moments with penalties in mind. To become European champions for the first time, England would need to do it from the spot.

Euro 2020 final shootout

Domenico Berardi sent Pickford the wrong way before Harry Kane levelled the scores.

Pickford saved Andrea Belotti’s effort diving low to his left. Harry Maguire blasted the ball into the top corner to give England the advantage.

Bonnuci pulled Italy level before Rashford saw his placed effort come back off the post after sending Donnarumma the wrong way.

Federico Bernadeschi scored straight down the middle to put all the pressure on Sancho to respond. The winger couldn’t respond, seeing his effort pushed away by Donnarumma to leave Italy one penalty away from glory.

Jorginho took it and with his trademark hop, skip and a jump, saw his penalty tipped onto the post by Pickford as Wembley erupted.

Saka stepped forward for the final kick, but saw his effort saved by Donnarumma as Italy were crowned champions of Euro 2020.