By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Italy beat England at London’s Wembley Stadium to be crowned 2020 European Champions after three English players missed spot-kicks on the evening of 11th July 2021. It was a game of two halves with England edging Italy in the first half while Italy dominated England in the second half. After normal time Italy beat England on penalties after Rashford, Sancho and Saka missed England’s last three penalties in a row.
Before the game, Italian coach Roberto Mancini stuck to his guns, opting for his trusted 4-3-3 formation which propelled Italy to the final with a 33 game unbeaten record. English counterpart Gareth Southgate on the other hand made a bold decision to employ a 3-4-3 formation with Atletico Madrid’s Keiran Trippier replacing Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka.
The game started perfectly for England after Manchester United left wing-back, Luke Shaw scored his first goal for England barely two minutes into the game after an assist from fellow right-wing back Keiran Trippier. Gareth Southgate’s decision to bring in an additional wingback gifted over 60,000 English home fans a dream start; Wembly was rocking. However, the Italians had the last laugh.
Gradually as the game progressed the 3-4-3 formation which attacked the Italian backline from the kick-off regressed into a back 5 as the wingbacks dropped deeper into their own half. England’s pragmatic and defensive approach allowed Italy’s confidence to grow as the game progressed. After half an hour Italian midfielder Jorginho (who plays for London club Chelsea) picked up a knock and from that moment onwards Italy began to see more of the ball and settled into the game.
The second half started with bold early changes in the 54th minute when Italian Manager, Roberto Mancini replaced Imobile with Beradi and Cristante for Barella. The changes had an instant impact on Italy who started the second half where they left off, attacking the English backline. After an hour of play at least two Italian strikers fizzed shots towards Jordan Pickford’s goal which he repelled brilliantly. The pressure was building.
In the 67th minute, an Italian corner lead to an almighty goalmouth scramble. Imposing Italian defender Bonnuci managed to toe-poke a loose ball towards the goal to draw Italy level, turning the game on its head. From then on Italy looked dangerous more likely to score as England ran out of ideas despite bringing on Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka.
Another substitution that surprised spectators was Jordan Henderson coming on for Declan Rice who seized control of the first half with his tenacious tackles. West Ham United player, Declan Rice, currently a top transfer target surprised observers with his ability to hold the ball and dribble past the Italians with ease in the first half. However, his game was cut short by Southgate.
By the end of the 90 minutes, the Italians had picked up 4 yellow cards with one going to goal scorer Bonnuci. A key moment occurred in the last minute of additional time when Chiellini grabbed Saka by the collar and dragged him down to the floor just when Saka looked set to run free towards goal. The game ended 1 – 1 at the end of normal time and extra time.
Towards the end of extra time, English manager Gareth Southgate decided to bring on Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho to take penalty kicks against Italy. Unfortunately, the Manchester United striker, Rashford cannoned his shot off the bottom right post of Italian shot-stopper Donnarumma. Italy’s win was secured when Donnarunma made two consecutive saves from newly signed Manchester United winger Jadon Sancho and teenager Bukayo Saka.
At the end of the tournament, Italian goalkeeper Donnarumma was awarded the best player of the tournament.