Euro 2020: 'Football comes to Rome' as Italy break English hearts at Wembley

Italy's men's national team has won the European Championships for the first time since 1968

after a penalty shootout victory over England at Wembley. For England, 55 years of hurt go on.

FT: Italy 1-1 England - Italy win Euro 2020 after beating England in a penalty shootout  (Bonucci 67' - Shaw 2') Wembley, London

"Football's coming home," they sung – but in the end it went to Rome, as Leonardo Bonucci screamed into the television cameras.

For the first time since 1968, and just three years after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Italy's men's national team has won the European Championship thanks to victory over England at Wembley.

For England, it came in the most devastating of manners — more penalty shootout heartbreak in a major tournament. Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, both brought on as late substitutes to take penalties, both missed for England, as did teenager Bukayo Saka.

But for Italy, it's the fairytale culmination to Roberto Mancini's three years in charge and a moment of cathartic redemption for a nation which has suffered so much over the past 18 months of the pandemic.

Andrea Belotti and Jorginho also missed for Italy in the dramatic shootout, but goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was the hero after saving twice.

"No-one expected this from us three years ago," said a surprisingly controlled Mancini at full-time. "The lads, I don't know what to say, they were fantastic. And the fans — it's so important for everyone."

Asked whether he had achieved both his pre-tournament aims of "winning while playing good football," he replied: "Yes, we've done that."

Italy's players celebrate winning Euro 2020 after a penalty shootout

Nightmare start for Italy

Almost exactly three hours earlier, with the sky still blue over Wembley, it all looked very different for the Azzurri who fell behind to a second-minute Luke Shaw volley which sent an already rocking Wembley into ecstasy. It was the fastest ever goal in a European Championship final and England, after decades of disappointment at major tournaments, had finally come to play. Italy looked stunned by the occasion, but they got to half-time just one goal down.

"Italy have to get creative and use the wings more, because England's midfield with [Declan] Rice and [Kalvin] Phillips are too good," opined German legend Jürgen Klinsmann on BBC television at half-time. "Italy need to get in between the lines but that's difficult against England because they press and squeeze so well."

Clearly, Mancini was having the same thoughts, because that's exactly what his team did, drawing level through Leonardo Bonucci just after the hour mark, the veteran defender reacting quickest during a goalmouth scramble. And Italy never looked back, ultimately triumphing in that dramatic penalty shootout where Italian experience prevailed over English youth.

Having hoisted the trophy into the now-blackened sky, the Italian players, coaches and medical staff raced over to their few thousand supporters behind one goal. One thousand had been permitted to travel from Italy for the final, exempt from strict quarantine regulations as part of a so-called "bubble trip."

They were in their own separate section, but were joined in neighboring blocks by a few thousand more UK-based Italians carrying signs and banners with slogans like "Football's Coming to Rome" or the "The Italian Job" — barbed references to English football and pop culture.

Italian players celebrate their equalizer with their fans

From 'biological bomb' to emotional explosion

And how those fans deserved to celebrate. Italy was the European nation which suffered first, and arguably most, from coronavirus — and football played a tragic role in that.

On March 10, 2020, Bergamo-based side Atalanta played Valencia in a Champions League game held at Milan's San Siro stadium. Over 44,000 people attended the event, which Bergamo's mayor would later describe as a "biological bomb."

Shortly after, the number of coronavirus cases in the province of Bergamo had skyrocketed, while deaths surged across the northern region of Lombardy. The military was soon transporting coffins through deserted streets. Italy's pandemic nightmare had begun. But coronavirus wasn't the only existential health crisis which this Italy team has had to overcome.

Italian legend Gianluca Vialli was included in the traveling party as "capo delegazione," Italy's "delegation chief," back by the side of his former Sampdoria strike partner Mancini after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Also in the squad was Francesco Acerbi, the 33-year-old former AC Milan ultra and notorious party animal whose career and life were turned upside down by testicular cancer in 2014.

And when left-back Leonardo Spinazzola, one of the stand-out players of the entire tournament, ruptured his Achilles tendon in the quarterfinal against Belgium, his teammates rallied behind him. Spinazzola was at Wembley on crutches, picking up his own gold medal as his colleagues sang "Spina! Spina!" in his honor.

Roberto Mancini (center) celebrates with his staff during Euro 2020

Mancini and Vialli's Italian Renaissance

Mancini himself hasn't suffered in a physical sense, but he has had his own personal demons to overcome with the Italian national team. Despite earning legendary status with his 168 goals in 566 games for Serie A side Sampdoria from 1982 to 1997, Mancini only managed four goals in 36 appearances for his country.

He was famously an unused substitute at Italia '90, and acrimoniously pulled out of Italy's squad for the World Cup in the United States four years later, having been demoted to at least third in the striking pecking order behind Roberto Baggio and Gianfranco Zola.

He took over the head coach job with Italy at their lowest ever ebb, having failed to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1958. Since then, his team has lost just twice.

Their victory at Wembley extended their current unbeaten run to 34 games — by far the best team at Euro 2020, and now with the trophy prove it.

Italy's Leonardo Bonucci scores the equalizer

90+6' Yellow card for Chiellini

There can be no arguments about that! The oldest man on the pitch at 36 years does the only thing he can do to stop teenager Saka from racing away, dragging the 19-year-old to the ground via his collar. Call it experience, call it cynicism, call it desperation — it worked, but Chiellini has paid the price.

90+4' Safety first

Neither team is taking a risk in injury time as the clock ticks down ... 

90' Six minutes of injury time

89' Pitch invader!

Meanwhile, the England fans, quiet in the second half despite making up the vast majority inside Wembley, try to lift their team with a rendition of "Football's Coming Home." But at the moment, it could go either way.

Another England fan has a different method of offering support: running onto the pitch. Inspirational stuff, until he's carted off by security. Contrary to earlier reports, we think he was clothed. We hope so, at least.

86' Chiesa off

And Chiesa is indeed unable to continue. He is replaced by Federico Bernardeschi.

82' Into the final 10 minutes...

We have a bit of delay to gather our thoughts as Italy's Chiesa receives treatment after being fouled after another tricky run. It would be a shame for Italy if their best player had to go off with the game in the balance.

73' Another Italy chance as England make changes

Berardi latches onto a long quarterback-style pass but volleys just over the bar. Suddenly, England are wobbling and Gareth Southgate reacts. The tricky Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka is on for the veteran Trippier to provide fresh legs going forward, while Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson replaces Declan Rice to add experience in midfield.

67' GOAL! Italy 1-1 England (Bonucci)

Italy have been much better since half time and now they have their reward! It's a proper striker's goal, but it's scored by a proper old-school defender, Leonardo Bonucci. After England fail to clear an Italian corner, Pickford manages to tip Veratti's effort onto the post but veteran Bonucci is quickest to react and Italy are level!

Italy's Leonardo Bonucci scores the equalizer

60' Italy changes, Italy pressure, Pickford saves

Azzurri coach Roberto Mancini has brought on Bryan Cristante and Domenico Berardi for the disappointing Barella and Immobile, and it seems to be working as Italy start to fashion chances.

The best effort comes from a man who was already on the pitch, Italy's best player Chiesa, who finds space on the edge of the England box and forces a neat save from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who in turn is furious at his defenders.

51' Italy close again

After England took an early first-half lead, Italy attempt to score early in the second — but Lorenzo Insigne's free kick is off target.

46' Kick-off in the second half

No changes to either side at half-time, and we're back underway.

Germany legend Klinsmann: "Go for the second goal!"

Legendary Germany striker Jürgen Klinsmann, who won Euro 1996 at Wembley, has been speaking to the BBC at half-time:

"What a start, what a goal, the place was rocking! England have been sharp, decisive and determined. If you want to do one thing against Italy, then go 1-0 up. Now Italy have to come out and play, and that's where they struggle.

"Italy have to get creative and use the wings more – because England's midfield with Rice and Philipps are too good. Italy need to get in between the lines but that's difficult against England because they press and squeeze so well.

"England have to go for the second goal. Go for it!"

45+4' Half-time! Italy 0-1 England

Dutch referee Björn Kuipers blows the half-time whistle and England are 45 minutes away from a first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup. They lead 1-0 thanks to Luke Shaw's early half-volley, and have looked solid ever since, despite Italy enjoying the lion's share of possession.

Luke Shaw volleys England into the lead in the second minute, and they've been the better team since.

35' Italy's best chance yet

They've not been gelling as a team so far in the first half, so Federico Chiesa goes it alone, dancing past a couple of English midfielders and shooting low from outside the box – just wide, but the closest Italy have come to an equalizer.

30' The Italians' Job

With half an hour played, England thoroughly deserve their 1-0 lead, courtesy of Luke Shaw's second-minute volley — the fastest ever goal in a European Championship final. And Italy have real job on their hands: England have only conceded one goal at this tournament so far, and even that was an unstoppable Denmark free-kick.

23' Italian possession but no bite

As expected, Italy's technically gifted midfield is starting to get on the ball more, the Azzurri enjoying up to 60% possession. But England are defending comfortably and pose a major threat every time they counterattack.

16' England's wingbacks

Gareth Southgate's switch to a back five (three central defenders and two wingbacks) was a response to Italy's attacking threat – but it's actually paying offensive dividends for his own team. The two wingbacks, Trippier on the right and goalscorer Shaw on the left, are causing the Azzurri all sorts of trouble.

10' Chaotic pace suiting England

It's been a breathless start here at a rainy Wembley – a dream start for England, a nightmare start for Italy. Lorenzo Insigne has tried to equalize from a free kick but, so far, the chaotic speed of the game seems to suit England better.

2' GOAL! Italy 0-1 England (Shaw)

What a start for England! Kieran Trippier crosses from the right and Manchester United's Luke Shaw fires home on the half-volley at the back post. The Three Lions could not have dreamt of a better start to their first major final since 1966.

 

Kick-off!

One year late due to the pandemic, but the Euro 2020 final is underway. Both teams take the knee in their traditional kits: Italy all in blue, England all in white. 

National anthems

The players are out on the pitch and belting out the national anthems, Il Canto degli Italiani and God Save The Queen. England fans giving it a good go but, if points were given for singing, then that's 1-0 to Italy. The players absolutely belting it out — and drowning out a few boos from England fans.

Closing ceremony

With kickoff approaching, there's just time for a quick closing ceremony – the opening ceremony in Rome on June 11 feels a lifetime ago! There, we had the legendary Andrea Bocelli singing Nessun Dorma at the Stadio Olimpico. Here in London, we have dancers and a huge inflatable European Championship trophy.

A late request for a live performance of cult England song "Football's Coming Home" was rejected by UEFA as being too partisan.

Italian "bubble trip"

1,000 Italy fans have been allowed to travel to London and are exempt from COVID-19 quarantine regulations, since they are traveling as part of a so-called "bubble trip." From airport to shuttle bus to stadium and back again, they will remain in their own bubble and - theoretically - have no direct contact with other fans. Inside Wembley, they are in their own little cordoned off section behind the goal, but are accompanied by thousands of other UK-based Italians in neighboring blocks. 

On the other hand ...

Having said that, it would be wrong to suggest that every single England fan is intent on a riot. Head coach Gareth Southgate has spoken about another side to England, and the support for the team throughout the country:

Amid reports of hundreds of ticketless supporters trying to storm the stadium and an estimated 200,000 people in the area surrounding the stadium, emotions are on the rise. DW's Matt Pearson is at Wembley:

Team news: England

As reported earlier, England switch to a three-man central defense consisting of Walker, Maguire and Stones, with Shaw and Trippier operating as wingbacks. It's a cautious approach from Southgate, but that's not done England too much harm so far.

The Three Lions will be hoping that they have enough quality up front in Sterling and Kane, plus the likes of Sancho, Rashford and Grealish off the bench, to cause Italy problems on the break.

But could that midfield duo of Rice and Phillips be a bit lacking in experience?

Team news: Italy

No surprises in the Italian starting line-up. Emerson replaces the injured Spinazzola at left back, as he did in the semifinal against Spain, while the central spine of Chiellini and Bonucci at the back and Jorginho and Veratti in midfield offers a wealth of experience - but is perhaps short on pace?

Up front, Chiesa, Immobile and Insigne all offer a varied goal threat.

Ticketless fans 

Wembley's capacity may have been increased to over 60,000 but that's still not anywhere enough to satisfy the demand for tickets for the final. Some fans have already tried to access the stadium without tickets, leading to slightly unpleasant scenes ... Then again, with ticket prices approaching €1,000 and ten times that from touts, and with thousands having gone to the so-called "UEFA family," a rag-tag group of VIPs and dubious sponsors, who can blame them for trying? 

Bastian Schweinsteiger: split loyalties

Germany may have exited Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage with a 0-2 defeat to finalists England, but former Nationalmannschaft captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is still looking forward to the final - but who is he supporting?

As a fan of Italian football but a former teammate of Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw at Manchester United, Schweinsteiger's loyalties are split...

Early England team news:

Reports in England suggest that Gareth Southgate will line England up with a three-man central defense, with Kyle Walker shifting inside alongside John Stones and Harry Maguire. Luke Shaw will remain as a left wingback, while Kieran Trippier will come in on the right, probably at the expense of Bukayo Saka.

English FA fined by UEFA

The English Football Association (FA) has been fined £25,630 (€30,000 / $35,600) for a series of misdemeanors from England fans during the semifinal against Denmark.

Most notably, a green laser point was shone from the stands into Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel's eyes, while some fans also booed the Danish national anthem and set off small amounts of pyrotechnics.

A UEFA statement read: "The CEDB [control, ethics and disciplinary body] has decided to fine the English Football Association €30,000 for the use of laser pointer, disturbances during the national anthems and setting of fireworks."

According to British daily The Guardian, several Danish fans have also complained about being harassed, abused and even spat at by English supporters leaving the stadium.

Italy arrive in London

The Squadra Azzurra arrived in London on Saturday afternoon. The final will be their third game of Euro 2020 at Wembley, having already beaten Austria in the last-16 and Spain in the semifinal.

Both of those games went to extra time. And the semi went to penalties. Make of that what you will.

England's Foden 'a doubt'

England forward Phil Foden sat out training on Saturday morning with what local media reported as a "minor knock."

Coach Gareth Southgate confirmed to BBC radio: "He’s a doubt. We'll have to check again but he’s got a fairly minor foot injury. But it's just whether it’s going to be one that clears up in time for him to be able to take part in the game, so we’ll have to assess that again later."

The Road to Wembley: England

England knocked out Germany en route to the final

Group D:
Croatia 1-0
Scotland 0-0
Czech Rep. 1-0

Last-16:
Germany 2-0

Quarterfinal:
Ukraine 4-0

Semifinal:
Denmark 2-1 (aet)

England cautiously banishing demons

After a rather conservative and cautious group stage in which England managed to score only two goals in three games against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic, Gareth Southgate's team only really hit their stride in the knock-out stage.

A famous 2-0 win over Germany at Wembley banished old demons and proved that this England side can mix it with the best — even if Germany at the end of the Joachim Löw era were not quite the proposition they once were.

England's reward was a more favorable pathway to the final. With all due respect to Ukraine and Denmark, England avoided most of Europe's traditional big hitters who were either knocked out (France, Portugal) or on the other side of the draw (Spain, Belgium, Italy).

The Three Lions made short work of Ukraine in Rome in front of a largely expatriate crowd but had to come from behind against Denmark in the semifinal after conceding their first — and as yet only — goal of the tournament.

An extra-time penalty, awarded when Raheem Sterling went down rather easily in the box, was fortunate, and Harry Kane could only convert it on the rebound after Kasper Schmeichel had saved, despite having a laser pen beamed into his eye.

But England didn't care. Fifty-five long years after the 1966 World Cup final, they were in a major tournament final again.

The Road to Wembley: Italy

Italy's players celebrate winning the semifinal penalty shoot-out against Spain

Group A:
Turkey 3-0
Switzerland 3-0
Wales 1-0

Last-16:
Austria 2-1 (aet)

Quarterfinal:
Belgium 2-1

Semifinal:
Spain 1-1 (4-2 on penalties)

Mancini's Italian renaissance

If England's route to the final was fairly straightforward, Italy's was anything but.

Roberto Mancini's men swept aside the much-fancied but ultimately disappointing Turks in the tournament opener in Rome, and they never looked back, comfortably topping Group A with wins against Switzerland and Wales.

A stubborn Austria took Italy to extra time on their first visit to Wembley in the last-16, before they faced top FIFA-ranked Belgium in a high-quality quarterfinal in Munich. Outscoring Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Co is no easy feat, but the Azzurri managed it with goals from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne.

By the time Italy returned to Wembley for their semifinal against Spain, the Spaniards had overcome a jittery start to develop into one of the tournament favorites. They were on top when Alvaro Morata's equalizer took the game to extra-time, but Italy ultimately deserved their penalty shootout win.

Mancini's men are now 33-games unbeaten stretching back to September 2018 — an Italian record. It's been a remarkable recovery for a football nation that shamefully failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and they could crown it by extending it to 34 games on Sunday.

Key players: England

Head coach Gareth Southgate is blessed with a wealth of world-class attacking talent in his squad and has faced some criticism for not necessarily getting the best out of Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.

Nevertheless, Sterling has been arguably the player of the tournament, while captain Kane has four goals to his name, despite a slow start.

Kane will renew hostilities with Italy center-back and captain Giorgio Chiellini, but the big issue for the Italian defense will be how to deal with Sterling's lightning pace and tireless trickery.

Key battle: England captain Harry Kane and Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini

Key players: Italy

While England have relied upon Kane and Sterling for goals, Italy have shared goalscoring responsibilities throughout the team: Forwards Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Federico Chiesa have all scored two, as have midfielders Matteo Pessina and Manuel Locatelli.

The Azzurri offer a well-balanced and varied threat, but the man who conducts the orchestra is more low-profile: Jorginho.

The Brazilian-born Chelsea midfielder, fresh from winning the Champions League, is a key cog both offensively and defensively, controlling Italy's passing when in possession and winning the ball back when not. His eight interceptions against Spain were the most made by any player in a single match at the last two European Championships.

Jorginho's quality may be understated, but his confidence certainly isn't, as his cool winning penalty in the semifinal shootout showed.

 

England coach Gareth Southgate

Incredibly, Gareth Southgate became England manager largely by accident.

When his predecessor Sam Allardyce was secretly filmed telling fictitious businessmen how to circumvent FIFA and FA bans on third-party ownership of players as part of a Daily Telegraph sting, he resigned after just one game, and Southgate, then in charge of the under-21s, took temporary charge.

As a club manager, he finished a career high of 12th in the Premier League with Middlesbrough in 2007 but was dismissed following relegation in 2009. But his reputation has improved after leading England to a first World Cup semifinal since 1990 in Russia in 2018, and now to a first major tournament final since 1966.

Tactically conservative, Southgate has faced criticism for not playing attacking football, especially given the offensive quality at his disposal. His omission of Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho has caused particular consternation. But he has perfected the art of tournament football, learning from the likes of Didier Deschamps' France to ensure a steady if unspectacular passage through the competition.

Southgate is hugely popular on a personal level, too, having spoken articulately and intelligently about the socio-political debates which have engulfed his young team, notably when it comes to taking the knee against discrimination.

For Southgate, success with England represents a degree of personal redemption, with his own playing career forever associated with his missed penalty against Germany in the Euro 1996 semifinal at Wembley.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini

A legendary player at Sampdoria and Lazio in the 1980s and 1990s, and a successful club manager with Inter Milan and Manchester City, Roberto Mancini has nevertheless endured a strained relationship with the Italian national team.

He was famously an unused substitute at the 1990 World Cup in Italy and withdrew from the Squadra Azzurra in acrimonious circumstances ahead of the 1994 World Cup. His comments six years ago that "Italian players deserve to play for the national team; those not born in Italy, even if they have relatives, do not," were also controversial. His reliance on Brazilian-born Jorginho at this tournament (585 minutes playing time – more than any Italy player except goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma) suggests he has revised that particular opinion.

Like Southgate, Mancini has also seen his reputation skyrocket as a man who has led a veritable footballing resurrection. He took over the national team in May 2018 just six months after the Squadra Azzurra had failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 – an earthquake in Italian football.

Under Mancini's tutelage, however, a new Italy side has lost just twice in 38 games and goes into Sunday's final on the back of a 33-game unbeaten run stretching back to September 2018.

Mancini's Azzurri are more creative and expressive than previous Italian teams, abandoning the traditional defensive catenaccio style in favor of a passing game more resemblant of Spanish tiki-taka.

England are in a first major tournament final since 1966 and will face Italy, who come into the game on the back of a 33-game unbeaten run.

The final at Wembley Stadium in London is the culmination of the monthlong European Championship that, for the first time, has taken place not in one host country but in 11 host cities spread across the continent.

From the surprising early exits of titleholders Portugal and world champions France to the end of Joachim Löw's Germany era, the tournament has not been short on footballing drama.

There have been great goals, such as Paul Pogba's spectacular finish for France against Switzerland and Mikkel Damsgaard's free kick for Denmark against England — and goalkeeping blunders from Slovakia's Martin Dubravka and Spain's Unai Simon.

But there was also near-tragedy when Denmark's Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrestand collapsed against Finland, and political controversy surrounding the displaying of LGBTQ+ flags, not to mention the rises in COVID-19 infection rates caused by the tournament.

But for one night at Wembley, however, the focus will be entirely on Italy and England. And DW has all you need to know ahead of kick-off.

Nervous England fans at a fan zone at Trafalgar Square in London

Penalty shootout

1. Italy score - 1-0
1. England score - 1-1

2. Italy miss - 1-1
2. England score - 1-2

3. Italy score - 2-2
3. England miss - 2-2

4. Italy score - 3-2
4. England miss - 3-2

5. Italy miss - 3-2
5. England miss - 3-2

Published / updated 14/07/2021