A tournament of 51 matches, played across 31 days in 11 different cities all came down to one final penalty shoot-out. Italy and England battled it out for 120 minutes of nerve wrecking football entertainment in front of 67,000 fans inside the home of football, Wembley Stadium, meanwhile many more eyes watched on from around the world.
England manager Gareth Southgate decided to continue his theme of making tactical decisions that the general public would not have predicted, he reverted to his secondary 3-4-3 formation and utilised Mason Mount within the attacking three alongside Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling for the first time at the tournament. On the other hand, Roberto Mancini stayed consistent with his team selection with Immobile leading the line, Jorginho anchoring midfield and Chiellini and Bonucci at the centre of defence.
The national anthems had only just came to an end and host’s England had the ball in the back of the net, Harry Kane dropped deep and played the ball out wide to Kieran Trippier, his cross was volleyed in by Luke Shaw, the left back’s first ever England goal sending the nation into euphoria. ‘God Save The Queen’ may be the song officially recognised in association with the country, but the adopted ‘Football’s Coming Home’ was now ringing around the arena. The remainder of the first half saw England defend resolutely and look to counter-attack. The Italians were frustrated and loose in possession, the midfield partnership of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips controlled the centre of the pitch, covering every blade of grass.
(Luke Shaw celebrates his first England goal: Getty Images)
The second period saw a change in the momentum of the match, the Azzuri which the footballing world had become accustomed too and allowed fondly into their hearts entered the pitch. Fast, energetic, relentless and with the quality to match, Mancini’s side began to bang on the door of the English goal. Defensive stalwart Leonardo Bonucci was the man to finally breakthrough, he smashed the ball home following a corner and an unbelievable reaction save from Jordan Pickford.
(Leonardo Bonucci scores for Italy: Getty Images)
The movement from both benches would be key once again for the outcome of the match, both Southgate and Mancini have been praised for the management of their squads throughout EURO 2020 and their changes were vital once again. The Italian boss made numerous early substitutions and looked to keep his team fresh, this maintained their tireless pressing nature. Southgate took a more measured and slower approach to making his impact on the final, eventually changing the system in an attempt to win the possession back for his side. Unfortunately for him, the grasp of the game stayed firmly in Italian hands throughout the 90 minutes and extra-time.
Pre-tournament it was the defence of England that had the world questioning whether they were serious contenders in the competition. Despite their huge price tags at club level, Harry Maguire and John Stones had question marks hanging over their heads. However, five clean sheets in seven games and a solid display in the final saw them through to within penalties of European glory, the two central defenders can holiday with their heads held high.
Gianluigi Donnarumma won the EURO 2020 Player Of The Tournament award, the Italian goalkeeper saving two penalties from youngsters Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after Marcus Rashford dragged his wide. The 22-year-old’s attitude and maturity beyond his years epitomising the culture of Mancini’s Azzuri and why they are champions of Europe.
(Gianluigi Donnarumma saves Bukayo Saka’s penalty: Getty Images)