LONDON — The narrative of Italian soccer’s restoration is now complete. England’s arduous 50-year search for a major trophy continues.
It had to be due to a penalty shootout, right?
On Sunday, Italy defeated England 3-2 on penalties to win the European Championship for the second time. At Wembley Stadium, which was largely packed with English fans expecting to celebrate the team’s first international victory since the 1966 World Cup, the match ended 1-1 after extra time.
“It’s on its way to Rome. During the celebrations, Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci yelled into a TV camera, mimicking the famous phrase from the England team’s hymn, “It’s coming to Rome.”
After Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy’s imposing goalkeeper, dove to his left and stopped the decisive spot-kick by 19-year-old Londoner Bukayo Saka, one of England’s youngest players, it was total dejection for England – they know the feeling so well when it comes to penalties.
At the completion of the second penalty shootout in a European Championship final, Donnarumma was swarmed by his teammates as they ran toward him from the halfway line while Saka and Sancho wept.
The joyful Italian players then raced to the opposite end of the field and dived to the ground in front of the Italian supporters who had seen their national team’s rebirth.
Italy reached a low point in its soccer history less than four years ago when it failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. They are now Europe’s greatest team, with a national-record 34-match undefeated run under Roberto Mancini, their shrewd coach, who has added to the country’s only European championship — in 1968 — and four World Cups by winning an international trophy in his first attempt.
As Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini raised the Henri Delaunay trophy in front of pyrotechnics and ticker tape, Mancini joined his men on the stage.
“It seemed difficult to even imagine this at one point,” Mancini said, “but the boys were absolutely incredible.” I’m at a loss for words when it comes to them.”
It’s England’s latest setback in big event shootouts, following defeats in 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006, and 2012. They halted their losing skid by defeating Colombia on penalties in the 2018 World Cup round of 16, but the misery has returned fast.
England captain Harry Kane remarked, “The lads couldn’t have offered more.” “When you lose, penalties are the worst feeling in the world.” It’s been a fantastic tournament, and we should be proud of ourselves. It’s going to hurt right now, and it’ll hurt for a while.”
Luke Shaw scored the fastest goal in a European Championship final by meeting a cross from opposite wing-back Kieran Trippier with a half-volley that went in off the post in the second minute, making it England’s first major final in 55 years.
Shaw’s first goal for England drew a fist-pump from David Beckham and Tom Cruise in the VIP box, as well as an outpouring of excitement across Wembley Stadium, which had at least 67,000 supporters inside. Perhaps, even more, considering the disturbing images in which scores of ticketless England fans barged past stewards and police and entered the stadium before kickoff.
In the entire 120 minutes, that was the only time Italy’s notoriously tough defense was breached.
After Shaw’s goal, England had very little possession of the ball for the rest of the game.
As expected, Italy’s midfielders controlled possession, and England resorted to dropping deep and putting nine or perhaps all of their outfield men behind the ball. It was reminiscent of England’s early goal against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup quarterfinals when the team spent most of the game chasing its opponent’s midfield before succumbing in extra time.
It was a well-deserved equalizer for Italy, and Bonucci was the unexpected scorer. After a right-wing corner was passed on to Marco Verratti, whose stooping header was pushed onto the post by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, he tapped the ball in from close range.
England held on for an extra time, as it had done in three of the previous six European championships, and had the better of the closing phases.
It’s just not the shootout this time.
Pickford pushed the attempt against the post, and the midfielder who converted the key penalty in a shootout triumph over Spain in the semifinals also failed to score.
Donnarumma subsequently made the key saves, and he was awarded player of the tournament within minutes, being the first goalie to do so.
As a result, instead of returning home, the trophy is on its way to Rome.
“We’d been hearing it day in and day out since Wednesday night – it was coming home to London,” Bonucci added. “I’m sad for them, but the cup is on its way to Rome, where Italians from all over the world will be able to enjoy it.”