ITALY 1 (Bonucci 67)
ENGLAND 1 (Shaw 2) Italy win 3-2 on penalties
ITALY ARE CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE after beating England on penalties at the end of an enthralling, emotional evening at Wembley that will live long in the memory.
Two hours of high-octane football could not separate these two great footballing nations, after Luke Shaw’s second-minute opener for England was equalised by Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci in the second-half of normal time.
30 minutes of extra-time brought no further goals, so it was on to a shoot-out, with the Italians prevailing, just as they had done in the semi-final win over Spain.
Jordan Pickford saved from Andrea Belotti and Jorginho, but misses from England substitutes Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka meant Italy won the shoot-out.
It was a cruel way to lose a match that had been everything we had hoped for in a final, as dramatic as the semi-finals had been in the same arena, which was closer to full capacity and even noisier than before.
But there was no happy ending for Gareth Southgate, who famously missed in the shootout against Germany in 1996. Italy were worthy winners, Roberto Mancini’s side being the best in the tournament from the start, but England’s players, who were in tears at the end, deserve huge credit for going so close.
There were chaotic scenes outside Wembley before the start when ticketless fans tried to force their way in. Riot police, dogs and horses were mobilised to restore order as stewards appeared to be overrun at some gates, although Wembley released a statement saying ”there were no security breaches of people without tickets getting inside.” That seemed at odds with reports on social media, with stories of tearful and terrified children, fans fighting with stewards, and genuine ticket-holders struggling to get in on time.
Inside, the atmosphere was ramped up to the max before kick-off and needless to say the Italian national anthem was booed by a section of England supporters.
Once the actual football started, England made the perfect start. Southgate had reverted to the 3-4-3 formation he employed against Germany in the round of 16, with Kieran Trippier replacing Bukayo Saka on the right.
When England mounted a quick counter-attack in the second minute from defence, it was Shaw leading with a pass into Harry Kane, who had dropped deep to link play. The England captain switched play with a sweeping pass out to Trippier on the right. While the defence was occupied with Kane, who had raced towards the centre of goal, no-one saw Shaw steaming towards the far post, with the exception of Trippier. His cross was weighted perfectly for Shaw to meet it with an exquisite and thunderous volley, his left foot sending the ball down into the turf and in off the near post, giving Gianluigi Donnarumma no chance.
Wembley erupted. For all the hundreds of thousands of words written before this final, no-one predicted Shaw would open the scoring, but what a time for the Manchester United left-back to score his first international goal.
The Italians were clearly rattled and it took a good 20 minutes for Roberto Mancini’s men to get into their groove, and once they did, Jorginho and Marco Verratti started to orchestrate some neat passing triangles in midfield. But Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips would not allow them to settle, and England’s defenders were tigerish in the tackle. Federico Chiesa gave England a scare in the 35th minute when he shrugged off Rice in a surging run from the halfway line, but drilled his shot the wrong side of Jordan Pickford’s post from the edge of the penalty area.
For long periods of the first-half, England were playing on the counter-attack. Raheem Sterling raced towards goal with one of his trademark mazy dribbles, but ran into the brick wall that is Bonucci.
It was breathless stuff and the first half seemed to fly by. The action was unrelenting, and referee Bjorn Kuipers made it clear he was not going to be conned by any play-acting, repeatedly gesturing to prone players to get up and get on with it.
He was not interested when Sterling went tumbling inside the penalty area under Bonucci’s challenge early in the second-half, but he did book the Juventus defender for flattening the winger later. Chiellini was also booked for cynically hauling back Bukayo Saka in the 90th minute.
Italy were still trying to break down England, who were defending doggedly.Pickford made an excellent close range stop from Insigne and then an even better one from Chiesa five minutes later.
But next it was Donnarumma’s turn to show what he could do, as the Italian keeper tipped over a powerful header from John Stones.
But most of the pressure was on Pickford’s goal, and in the 67th minute, it paid off for Italy as Bonucci equalised. A corner was swung in from the right, Verratti sent in a diving header that Pickford saved at the far post, but Bonucci reacted quickest to sweep the loose ball over the line. Now it was the turn of Italy’s fans to celebrate, and they roared on their team, who were given a huge boost by the equaliser. Domenico Berardi volleyed just over as Pickford went flying out of his goal, while at the opposite end, another run from Sterling ended in a cul-de-sac.
The sides were level at the end of 90 minutes, so once again we had extra-time.
Southgate sent on Jack Grealish, Mancini sent on Federico Bernardeschi, who fired in a long-range free-kick that Pickford held at the second attempt. Kane caused panic at the opposite end with a curling cross that Italy scrambled clear.
Now it was England, roared on by their passionate fans, that found a second wind. Grealish tried to send Sterling away, and was then injured by a studs-up challenge from Jorginho. Still no more goals, so on to penalties.
Berardi and Kane scored, before Pickford saved Andrea Belotti’s kick.. Marcus Rashford then hit a post and Jadon Sancho had his saved by Donnarumma. Pickford kept out Jorginho to give England hope, but Saka had to score the tenth penalty – and Donnarumma saved again.
Italy 4-3-3 Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson (Florenzi 117); Beralla (Cristante 53), Jorginho,Verratti (Locatelli 96); Chiesa (Bernardeschi 85), Immobile (Berardi 53), Insigne (Belotti 91)
England 3-4-3 Pickford; Walker (Rashford 118), Stones, Maguire; Trippier (Saka 70), Phillips, Rice, Shaw (Sancho 118); Sterling, Kane, Mount (Grealish 99)
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)