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LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Bernardeschi of Italy celebrate following their team’s victory in the penalty shoot out after the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Semi-final match between Italy and Spain at Wembley Stadium on July 06, 2021 in London, England. (Photo : Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Italy advanced to the Euro 2020 final after keeping their composure from the penalty spot, edging past Spain, 4-2, in a shootout following a nerve-wracking 1-1 draw after extra time on Tuesday night.
Jorginho scored the match-winner for Italy, delivering the decisive spot-kick past Spanish keeper Unai Simon after Alvaro Morata’s effort was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma and Dani Olmo had blasted his penalty attempt over the bar.
Those two costly misses by Morata and Olmo earned Italy’s Manuel Locatelli a major reprieve, whose opening penalty attempt was saved by Simon to give Spain the early advantage in the shootout. Unfortunately for the Spaniards, they could not replicate their earlier success against Switzerland, which also ended in penalties.
Mancini leads Italy back to the final
Italy will next face either England or Denmark in Sunday’s final at the Wembley Stadium in their first championship match since being destroyed 4-0 by Spain in Euro 2012. Since then, a lot has transpired with the Azzurri, with Italy even missing the 2018 World Cup in their last major tournament.
They have bounced back strongly, though, under the leadership of manager Roberto Mancini with the Italians now unbeaten in their last 33 matches. After displaying some free-flowing football in their opening group matches, the Italians have reverted to their old-school style of defending in the knockout stages.
They needed extra time to beat Austria in the round of 16 and then managed to hold on in the second half to beat Belgium 2-1 in the quarterfinals. Like those two matches, the Italians opened the scoring against Spain, with Federico Chiesa curling in a delightful effort in the 60th minute to cap off a swift counterattack started by goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Spain falls short in semis
The Spaniards battled back, though, with Morata scoring the equalizer in the 80th minute, calmly finishing into the bottom corner after a pretty one-two exchange with Olmo. Spain dominated in the dying minutes of regulation and extra time, with Italy managing just one shot attempt during that span. Unfortunately, La Roja could not find the breakthrough that could have given them the win before the dreaded shootout.
Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci paid tribute to the opposition after the match, saying, “It was the toughest game I have ever played. I congratulate Spain for what they showed, but once again this Italy showed heart, determination and the ability to push through difficult moments. Now there is one more centimeter to go. It is incredible what we are doing. We will be back here in five days and we must have the same attitude to bring home this trophy that we have lacked for 50 years.”
For all the accomplishments that Italy has done on the international stage, it is surprising that the Azzurri have just won the European Championship once, capturing the title back in 1968. They have been to the finals twice since then but lost in the 2000 and 2012 championship matches. They will look to make amends and capture their second Euro title at Wembley this coming Sunday.
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