Leonardo Bonucci's second-half equaliser forced the final into extra time
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
England could not end 55 years of hurt as they lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties at Wembley.
Things were looking very comfortable for Gareth Southgate’s side when Luke Shaw’s stunning half-volley gave them an early lead, but Italy fought back tremendously, scoring a deserved second-half equaliser through Leonardo Bonucci.
And after a goalless period of extra time, Roberto Mancini’s side emerged the victors after an agonising penalty shootout. But how did Italy fight back to win their second European title? Telegraph Sport analyses how the match played out.
Trippier call pays off at first
Kieran Trippier was the only change made from the semi-final team and it quickly became apparent why he was drafted in. Bukayo Saka was left out but bringing in a full-back for a forward was not a defensive strategy, with Trippier pushed right up.
In the first minute England had five players in the final third of the pitch, pressing Italy’s defenders as they tried to pass out from the back.
Trippier was effectively an extra man on the right and when Harry Kane found him in space, the full-back had enough time to think twice – largely thanks to the overlapping efforts of Kyle Walker – about sending the ball in first time.
Instead he waited to place his delivery onto the boot of Luke Shaw to open the scoring.
Euro 2020 Final, Shaws goal vs Italy
Walker being part of a three-man defence meant either he or Trippier would pick up Lorenzo Insigne, regarded by England as Italy’s most dangerous threat.
Insigne went as wide as he possibly could to involve himself in the game and would have Trippier close by.
Stifling England’s attack key to Italian revival
Italy forcing their way back into the final was down to them stopping the attacks of England that allowed them to get on top in the first 20 minutes, where Raheem Sterling was to the fore. Gareth Southgate had five defenders and two defensive midfielders starting but players poured forward in those opening stages, with only Declan Rice protecting his centre-backs.
It was a successful strategy for England.
Once Italy regrouped after the break, they stopped England playing with their work-rate in pressing without the ball. They were helped by their grizzled defenders making sure nothing got past them. Giorgio Chiellini could have seen red for hauling back Saka and Leonardo Bonucci was also booked.
England's first half average positions
The high-intensity pressing allowed them to retrieve possession and start creating more than they did in the first half when England looked so threatening.
In the second half Italy played with rhythm, which was the opposite of the first 45 minutes when Marco Verratti and Jorginho were swamped and could not get on the ball to pick their passes.
Energetic Rice a man on a mission
It is no wonder that Rice goes down with cramp at the end of games, given the amount of work he gets through.
He was constantly tracking where the ball is and positioning himself for the next interception if Italy were in possession, or driving England forward if he had the ball at his feet.
It was an exceptional display from the West Ham United midfielder.
Rice’s defensive contributions
Italy’s possession percentage was higher than England’s during the game but Rice snapped at the heels of the Italian midfield when they got onto the ball and it meant they had no time to pick their passes.
Rice would also be seen in deep areas, dropping as far back as Harry Maguire and John Stones at times in a three-man wall that allowed Walker to join Trippier further up the pitch. The same principle applied to Shaw for his goal.
When the ball went dead, Rice would have his hands on hips getting his breath back and get ready for the next burst of energy.
Patience pays off for the Azzurri as they take charge
Italy had some success against Spain by going direct and using the pace of Federico Chiesa and Insigne getting on the end of long passes from their centre-backs. However, in the final they stayed patient and built up their play through midfield, refusing to panic despite falling behind to Shaw’s early goal.
They started applying pressure by creating attacking moves with different angles around a defence that could drop into the back five.
That long ball was no good to them with Maguire positioned deep enough to deal with it. But it also invited the Italians to attack unlike the first half.
Roberto Mancini’s players were clever. As the second half began the duo of Jorginho and Verratti took control, spraying passes round the pitch and dictating play. They were rewarded with the goal after 67 minutes, and England could have had few complaints.
Euros 2020 final (Touch map)
They mixed it up, too. When England pushed up the pitch they went for a long pass immediately and it led to Domenico Berardi volleying over with just Jordan Pickford to beat. But on the whole Italy stuck to those shorter passes to get their wide forwards into the game.
The Italians refused to panic, believing their metronomic passing would make all the difference.
England threw everything at them but, in the end and alongside their clever use of substitutions, it proved decisive to the result.
Mancini’s substitutes make all the difference
Mancini made positive substitutions to add energy to his team and completely change his forward line by the time the final went into extra-time, Federico Chiesa, Insigne and Ciro Immobile are Italy’s best three attackers but Mancini showed trust in his bench to use different personnel for the added 30 minutes.
With Manuel Locatelli also coming on in central midfield, Mancini was making the most of his squad. Locatelli had a case for starting the match and to have him come off the bench would scare most opposition teams.
In contrast, Southgate held back on making sweeping changes.
When both sides made their substitutions (Euros Final)
Saka coming on saw them revert to 4-2-3-1, then Jordan Henderson coming on was due to Rice giving absolutely everything with his running in central midfield.
England fans were calling for Jack Grealish well before he was eventually introduced in extra-time as an attacking wildcard.
It was in keeping with the rest of the tournament as Southgate has used less substitutes than other coaches, which is partly because England have been involved in tight games.
Then, right at the death, he brought on Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho for penalties. If it had worked Southgate would have seemed to be a genius – but it did not and the England manager will wonder if his players could have made an impact earlier.