FOOTBALL – It was a night of pure theatre as a closely fought match between Italy and Spain went to the wire. Jorginho’s spot kick was the cue for cries of Forza as Italy beat Spain and progress to the Euro 2020 final.
It looked as if Federico Chiesa’s goal in normal time was enough to send the Azzurri into the final. A delightful touch as he curled it into the goal off a quick counter-attack.
However, Morata – who has been both praised and reviled by Spanish supporters during this tournament – came off the bench to score the equaliser with 10 minutes to go.
The Juventus forward’s see-saw of a tournament tipped again, as his penalty miss unfairly sent him from hero to zero. This was the first semi-final Spain have lost.
Italy the best in the tournament?
Arguably, Roberto Mancini’s side have been the best team in the tournament. Their unbeaten run is extended and they deserve to be in the final.
However, Italy seemed to miss the sparkle of Spinazzola at left-back. And while Chelsea’s Emerson was less spectacular as his replacement, he did provide Italy’s only effort of the first half as he hit the bar from a tight angle.
But, the last ten minutes of normal time, and the 30 of extra time saw Italy at times hanging on by their fingertips. Certainly, their style of football has reverted to the Italy of old – score a goal, then defend, defend, defend. There was a feeling they were playing for penalties.
It was a ploy that could have backfired as Manuel Locatelli’s penalty was saved, putting them in a far from comfortable position from the off. But they converted the rest of their spot-kicks. Jorginho waited for the Spanish keeper to move before shooting the other way and putting the Azzurri into the final.
Mancini’s men march on
During the group stages, Italy were attacking and impressive, while maintaining their solid defensive form. They didn’t concede a goal.
The knockout stages proved different. They needed extra time to beat Austria and had to really push to dismiss Belgium 2-1.
Still, this is a different team to the one Mancini took over. Then Italy didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup team. This is certainly a renaissance for the Azzurri.
Surprisingly, Italy – four-time world champions – have only ever won a single European Championship. We need to look back in the mists of time to 1968 for that. They have made it to two Euro finals – 2000 and 2012 – and will hope it make it this a winning return.
Their opponents will be decided tonight – England or Denmark.
Who will the Azzurri face in the final?
With both the semi-final and the final played at Wembley, England will be hoping to bring a trophy home. Their last major final was the 1966 World Cup, which they won. As the fans sing, it’s been many “years of hurt” since then, from a football perspective.
Denmark will be looking to repeat their 1992 Euro Championship win. Then Peter Schmeichel was in goal, now his son Kaspar stands between the sticks hoping to keep the Danes in the championship for one more match.
Neutrals may well be backing Denmark, who have rallied after the horrifying collapse of Eriksen in their first match against Finland.
Whoever makes it into the final to face Italy on Sunday, it will certainly be emotionally charged.