Italy defeats Spain on Penalties to Reach Euro Finals
After a 1-1 draw in the semi-final, Italy defeated Spain 4-2 on penalties in a spectacular Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley on Tuesday, with Jorginho converting the game-winning penalty to send the Azzurri through to the final in a tournament in which they have been the standout team.
They were not always on top in this game, with Spain having the upper hand for extended stretches of an epic battle before Juventus striker Federico Chiesa gave Italy the lead with a spectacular finish an hour into a match that drew a crowd of nearly 58,000.
With 10 minutes of normal time remaining, the much-maligned Alvaro Morata, who had been withdrawn from the starting line-up, came off the bench to equalize.
Spain, who had overcome Switzerland in a shoot-out in the quarter-finals, had to go to penalties again after no further scoring in extra time.
Spain had previously defeated Italy on penalties at Euro 2008, but mistakes from Dani Olmo and then Alvaro Morata saw them surrender the lead they had gained when Manuel Locatelli missed the opening kick in the shoot-out.
The Italians celebrated with a big number of their UK-based fans at the final whistle, and a team that has been revitalized under Roberto Mancini continues to dream of winning their first European Championship championship since 1968.
They go to Sunday’s final when they will face either England or Denmark, who will meet in Wednesday’s second last-four tie.
It had been nine years since Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev to win a third consecutive major tournament, and this was the fourth European Championship in which these two giants had faced.
This time it was on a chilly July evening in London, but the atmosphere at Wembley Stadium was anything but a damp squib.
Given the mandatory quarantine for all visitors to the United Kingdom, both coaches expressed their regret on the eve of this semi-final that there would be no traveling fans.
They didn’t account for the enormous Spanish and Italian communities existing in the UK, and 20,000 fans of the two teams were among the 57,811 people allowed inside Wembley Stadium.
They created the perfect stage by adding a level of loudness and color that has been sorely absent at big athletic events since the pandemic began.
The play itself was engrossing and of the greatest caliber, particularly in midfield, where Jorginho, Marco Verratti, and Nicolo Barella of Italy met their match in Sergio Busquets, Koke, and Pedri of Spain.
The latter, who is only 18, is a terrifying talent, and his touch and composure on the ball signal that he will be Spain’s captain for many years.
In the first half, the game lacked drama in front of goal, however, Gianluigi Donnarumma of Italy made a vital save to deny Dani Olmo in the 25th minute.
Italy were without Leonardo Spinazzola, their star left-back who tore his Achilles tendon in the quarter-finals against Belgium.
Meanwhile, Spain’s coach, Luis Enrique, benched Morata in favor of Mikel Oyarzabal, who will start on the right-wing.
Spain had got the best of the first half, but Italy took the lead around the hour mark courtesy to a superb goal.
Lorenzo Insigne played Ciro Immobile behind in a move that began with Donnarumma’s throwout.
Aymeric Laporte’s challenge stopped Immobile, but the ball dropped to Chiesa, who selected his place in the far corner of Unai Simon’s goal with his right foot.
The Italian fans, who had assembled in large numbers at that end of Wembley, exploded in joy.
Spain responded by bringing on Morata and Gerard Moreno, and just as Italy appeared to be cruising to win, Morata equalized.
Morata performed a one-two with Olmo as he cut through the defense and tapped in after receiving the ball midway inside the opposition half.
Spain had a bounce in their step heading into extra time after the merited equalizer, but unfortunately they couldn’t carry that into the deciding shoot-out.
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