Euro 2020: Italy reach final after seeing off Spain

After failing to even qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 2018, the Azzurri have made giant steps in returning to the European football elite.

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Italy will play in Sunday’s UEFA EURO 2020 final after seeing a lead wiped out but then defeating Spain on penalties at Wembley.

They had led through Federico Chiesa on the hour but substitute Álvaro Morata forced extra time. It went to a shoot-out and after Morata himself was denied, Jorginho rolled in the clincher for Roberto Mancini’s team.

Italy started brightly but Spain began to take control in midfield. The first clear chance came on 25 minutes when Dani Olmo, spearheading the Spain attack after being picked ahead of Morata, pounced on a loose ball but was denied by Gianluigi Donnarumma. Later in the first half Italy threatened down the left, Emerson clipping the woodwork with a shot across goal.

The opening period had only simmered but the second half boiled over with chances, Ciro Immobile and Sergio Busquets going close before Chiesa forced a save from Unai Simón. On the hour mark, that man Chiesa broke the deadlock, picking up a loose ball on the edge of the box, cutting inside and curling a shot inside the far post.

Spain responded well, Mikel Oyarzabal and Olmo looking menacing. At the other end, Chiesa showed his pace to set up substitute Domenico Berardi, blocked by Unai Simón. Berardi, again, nearly doubled the advantage with ten minutes left but once more could not beat the Spain keeper; La Roja went straight up the other end and Morata, brought on after the Italy goal, levelled following a smart passing exchange with Olmo.

In extra time, Italy somehow survived a succession of shots in which both Olmo and Morata had efforts repelled, and shortly afterwards Marcos Llorente was similarly frustrated by Leonardo Bonucci. But it went to penalties, Unai Simón saving the first kick from Manuel Locatelli and Olmo then missing. Spain’s fourth attempt from Morata was stopped by Donnarumma and Jorginho coolly slotted in the winner.

On a night which proved more difficult than many expected, Italy still managed to reach the final at the expense of a brilliant Spanish side who just failed to make the most of the several chances they created. After failing to even qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 2018, the Azzurri have made giant steps in returning to the European football elite.

REACTION:

Roberto Mancini, Italy coach: “We are pleased to have given joy like this to the Italian people. We knew it would be very hard, Spain caused us plenty of trouble. We tried to score when we had the chances but we had a hard time because we didn’t have much of the ball. We wanted the final even if not many people believed us before the tournament. I congratulate Spain, they are a great team and penalties are a lottery. There are some games when you have to struggle but we deserved to be here. We knew it was going to be tough, it wasn’t easy and Spain surprised us at the beginning by deciding to play without a striker. This squad, however, is amazing. Everyone wants to win, but this group of players wanted to do something special and they just did that.”

Luis Enrique, Spain coach: “I think we deserved an ‘excellent’ if I wanted to give my players marks. I think they’ve been marvellous. I can’t criticise them, I have to praise them. It’s time for them to rest now. Morata had an adductor problem but still wanted to take the penalty and that says so much for his personality. He’s been gigantic for us in this tournament. In professional sport we all have to learn how to win and how to take defeat. That’s why I want to congratulate Italy. We’re going back to Spain safe in the knowledge that we were clearly among the best teams at this tournament.”

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy goalkeeper: “I was calm before the penalties because I knew I could help the team. I’d like to thank everyone, as now we are only one step away from realising our dream. Spain are very strong, but this Italy side has a lot of courage, we never give up.”

Federico Chiesa, Italy goalscorer: “I cannot describe my emotions in words. You know, it was a tough match. Spain were great tonight, but now we are in the final and we’re coming back here on 11 July and we’ll see. We’ll see.”

Sergio Busquets, Spain midfielder: “Everyone made Italy big favourites but we demonstrated that we were superior to them. We played with a lot of young footballers and this whole experience will have served to give them a lot of confidence. This team will be back. We imposed the things we wanted to here, owning the ball, winning it back as quickly as possible. In general across this match I think we were the dominant side. But football’s like this, and all we can do is congratulate Italy.” (Uefa Media)

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