Italian national team players celebrate after defeating Spain via penalty shootout in the semi-finals of Euro 2020
UEFA European Championship finals: The Italians have made it. They are in the final of Euro 2020. The Azzurris beat Spain in the first semi-final 4-2 via penalties on Wednesday to book a spot in the final against England. The Euro Cup 2021 will take place at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 12 (Indian time).
Arguably the best match of the tournament to date, two of the traditional football powers produced one of their best performances. The match, to an extent, went on expected lines. Spain controlled more of the ball but they failed to convert their chances.
Italy, on the other hand, started a bit on the back foot. They failed to create many chances in the first half, but in the second half, Federico Chiesa gave the Italians the lead with a perfect shot. Spanish striker Alvaro Morata, who started on the bench, came in the second half to score the equaliser. The game went to extra time where both teams failed to break the deadlock. The game went to penalties.
Morata, who scored the equaliser in regular time, missed the crucial fourth penalty. Italy scored the next and booked the spot in the final. The Spanish side may have lost the Euro Cup 2021 semifinal, but they certainly have a bright future ahead with the number of young talents at their disposal.
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For the Italians, this is the first major international tournament final after they were thrashed 4-0 by Spain in the final of the European Championship in 2012. After 2012, the team went out in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and failed to qualify in the 2018 World Cup for the first time after 1958.
In the continental competition, after the 2012 final, the Italian team failed to go past the quarter-finals in the 2016 edition. The 2020 final will be Italy’s fourth tournament final, two less than Germany’s. For Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, the semi-final win over Spain will help them erase the memories of 2012 final. Both the defenders are the only two Italian players from 2012 final who are still playing, making this edition their second final appearance.
Since, Italy’s 2018 low, the team has made great strides in its performance. The team is currently on a 33-match unbeaten run which goes back to September 2018. The resurgence took place under manager Roberto Mancini who took over in May 2018.
"We are pleased to have given joy like this to the Italian people. We knew it would be very hard, Spain caused us plenty of trouble. We tried to score when we had the chances but we had a hard time because we didn't have much of the ball. We wanted the final even if not many people believed us before the tournament,” Mancini said after the match.
Italy’s road to final
Italy began the group stage with a 3-0 win against Turkey. They repeated the score against Switzerland in the second group game and secured a narrow 1-0 win against Wales. The team progressed to the second round of Euro 2020 with a perfect win record and without conceding a goal. In the round of 16, Austria made Italy work hard to earn a 2-1 win at extra time. However, in the quarter-final game, the team produced a brilliant performance to defeat Belgium and setting up a clash against Spain in the semis.
Italy are just one match away from their first major international title since 2006 World Cup title.