EURO2020.com's reporters analyse Italy's triumph over England at Wembley Stadium.
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Italy have been crowned champions of Europe for the second time after a penalty shoot-out success against England in the UEFA EURO 2020 final.
EURO2020.com team reporters Paolo Menicucci and Simon Hart sat down to chew the fat on where the game was won and lost.
Where the final was won
Roberto Mancini's men reeled for a few moments after going behind early on, but gradually began to regroup. Soon the Azzurri were again playing the kind of football they believe in; a central aspect of the philosophy the coach has drummed into his players since taking over in 2018.
It was then, too, that he decided to build his team around the midfield trio of Nicolò Barella, Jorginho and Marco Verratti, and they all played their part at Wembley. Italy's possession became increasingly fluid as they put England under pressure, forcing the Three Lions to chase the ball for most of the game. That Italy completed over twice as many passes as England, 758 to 340, is perhaps as telling as it is surprising.
England's chief attacking outlets at EURO 2020, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, were neutralised by the two defensive grandmasters Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. That said, Italy should probably have created more chances themselves at the opposite end of the pitch, especially once they had seized control of midfield following Bonucci's equaliser.
That the Azzurri were unable to was further confirmation that England have one of the best defences in Europe, with just two goals conceded in almost 700 minutes throughout the tournament. But when you have a certain Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal, penalty shoot-outs are more likely to bring tears of joy rather than sadness.
Paolo Menicucci, Italy reporter
Where the final was lost
Control slips away
England have been defensively solid and capable of playing with impressive composure but a familiar failing reared its head as Italy's midfield took control after the break – a pattern seen previously in their semi-final defeats in which leads slipped away against Croatia at Russia 2018 and the Netherlands in the 2019 UEFA Nations League.
England have made progress in this regard – with the midfield duo of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips having terrific tournaments – but in this game at least, they were second best. "In the end we haven't been able to keep the ball well enough in the second period of normal time especially and that invited more and more pressure," Gareth Southgate reflected. "We know it's something that we have to be better at but the time to analyse that in depth is not for this moment." With less of the ball, it meant fewer possibilities to feed the forwards and that explosive start ultimately counted for nothing.
Penalty curse strikes again
Southgate has done so much to tear up the old scripts but the ghost of penalties past made an unwelcome return with England's fourth shoot-out defeat in the European Championship (and seventh overall in major tournaments). One of the barriers broken by this England was the World Cup shoot-out win over Colombia; however, with Mason Mount and Kieran Trippier substituted, the manager admitted that a couple of his potential takers were off the pitch, which meant the 11th-hour introductions of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.
Both missed, along with Bukayo Saka, a 19-year-old who had never taken a penalty in his professional career, meaning Jordan Pickford's two stops were in vain. So too all England's careful planning involving tracking the players' efforts from the spot with their clubs as well as in training at St George's Park.
"That is the process that worked in Russia and the Nations League [win against Switzerland] and tonight has not quite worked," said Southgate. "Of course it’s going to be heartbreaking for the lads but they’re not to blame. It's my call as the coach." Twenty-five years after EURO '96, Southgate has seen a dream disappear in a shoot-out once more.
Simon Hart, England reporter