Leonardo Bonucci of Italy celebrates with the Euro 2020 trophy
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Italy were driven on by England’s belief that the European Championships were “coming home,” according to defender Leonardo Bonucci.
Roberto Mancini’s side denied England the chance to end a 55-year wait to win a major tournament after triumphing in a penalty shoot-out at Wembley and Bonucci admitted the Azzurri were not short of motivation.
“Absolutely,” the Juventus centre-half said when asked if the “it’s coming home” chants had lit a fire under Italy. “We’d heard it day in, day out ever since Wednesday night after the Denmark game that the cup would be coming home to London.
“I’m sorry for them but actually the cup is going to take a nice flight, it’s going to be winging its way to Rome and Italians all over the world can really savour the moment. It’s for them and for us. It’s only right Italian celebration in all corners of the globe.”
Italy are now unbeaten in 34 matches and Bonucci believes this team are here to stay.
“We has the disappointment of failing to qualify for the World Cup [in 2018] but you must never give up,” Bonucci said.
“This is a renaissance for Italian football, we’ve won this and I’m sure this squad and this great coach will still make plenty of headlines going forward. We were special in that we believed. We believed right from day one when we joined up.”
Mancini dedicated Italy’s success to the former Sampdoria president, Paolo Mantovani, and admitted it was an extraordinary feeling to finally taste success with his country after a frustrating international playing career. Mancini did not get on the pitch at Italia 90, when Italy lost on penalties to Germany, and lost in the final of the 1986 European Under-21 Championship on penalties to Spain.
“I was fortunate to play in a great side in 1990 and a terrific side in 1986 and despite the fact we were the best there we didn’t manage to win it and lost both times on penalties so I was due this,” he said.
Asked if he had shed tears at the end of a game before, Mancini said: “I cried on this ground almost 30 years ago after [losing] the 1992 European Cup final [to Barcelona with Sampdoria]. I came here and saw all of the guys and couldn’t believe we’d achieved it. It’s so hard to watch a penalty shoot out.
“Paolo Mantovani is someone I want to dedicate this to because he was with me here when we lost the European Cup final to Barcelona.
“The tears? That was the emotion that happens after achieving something incredible. It was the emotion of seeing the guys celebrating and the fans celebrating in the stands and the emotion of seeing everything we’ve managed to create, all the hard work we’ve put in over the last three years and specifically the last 50 days. They really have created something that can never be taken away from them going forward – they will always be synonymous with this triumph now.”
Euro 2020 final
How Roberto Mancini ended his long wait for success at international level
By James Ducker
Roberto Mancini has waited a long time for international fulfilment and, when it eventually came, the emotions overwhelmed him. Mobbed by his staff, friends with whom he has spent a lifetime in football, Italy’s coach could not hold back the tears. It is 27 years since one of the Italian game’s greatest talents prematurely called time on a playing career with the Azzurri that left him yearning for so much more but any regrets will weigh a little less heavy now.
Seldom have second chances felt so sweet. And that’s very much how Mancini has viewed this job. A chance to fill a void in his career, a chance to scratch an itch that, at times, must have eaten away at him. In the end, he denied Gareth Southgate the opportunity to do the same.
Wembley has been the scene of a kaleidoscope of emotions for Mancini over the decades. In 1992, Ronald Koeman and Barcelona denied him the chance of European Cup glory with Sampdoria. He would taste success with Manchester City in the FA Cup final in 2011 but, two years later, there was more disappointment, defeat to Wigan Athletic in the final of the same competition bringing an unceremonious end to his rollercoaster reign as City manager after Ben Watson’s stoppage time-winning goal.
And, last night, Mancini must have feared it might be the England goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, who was going to inflict more turmoil at this famous ground before his own No. 1 Gianluigi Donnarumma emerged as Italy’s hero. The Paris Saint-Germain-bound goalkeeper has enjoyed a fabulous tournament and this was his crowning glory, as harsh it was on his opposite number who had kept England believing with that dramatic save from Jorginho in the shoot-out.
Mancini is something of a managerial chameleon, a coach less wedded to a single, overarching philosophy than one able to tailor his tactics to the trends of the day and, in Italy’s case, he has embraced a desire to play a more adventurous brand of football than they have traditionally been known for. There is little doubt Italy have lit up this tournament and are worthy winners.
They may have been caught a little off guard by Southgate reverting to a back three and shaken by Luke Shaw’s goal after just two minutes but they gradually wrested back control of the game and were the superior side in the second half. Perhaps England played into Italy’s hands by dropping deeper and deeper, allowing Jorginho to gain control of midfield and inviting Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne into the game.
The disappointment for England is that, after such bright beginnings when Italy fell behind for only the fourth time in 34 matches, Southgate’s men never asked more questions of their opponents. Indeed, Mancini must have wondered if this tournament, after a sweet beginning and a rich middle, was going to conclude a little like his Manchester City career with a sour end.
Italy’s response to that difficult first 20 minutes, though, was impressive. Chiesa, at 23, is clearly the future of this side and, looking ahead to the World Cup next year, the biggest questions for Mancini may revolve around what he does with his veteran centre-half pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. They have formed the bedrock of Italy’s success at this tournament but, at 34 and 36 respectively, they will not go on forever.
In many ways, this final was vindication for long-term strategic thinking, the convergence of two countries who rode several storms to stick by philosophies that they were convinced would eventually yield success or, more specifically in Italy’s case, a return to success.
England’s cultural revolution over the past decade has been well documented but, while the Football Association, Trevor Brooking, Southgate and others were quietly driving change, their Italian counterparts were implementing their own reforms. That plan could easily have been jettisoned on the back of Italy’s group-stage exit at the 2014 World Cup and their failure to qualify for the tournament four years later for the first time since 1958 but, wisely, they did not throw the baby out with the bathwater and the results of such patience have borne fruit.
Italy’s answer to Brooking came in the form of Maurizio Viscidi, the technical coordinator of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) since 2010 and a disciple of Arrigo Sacchi who carried on the work the revered former AC Milan coach had started by challenging ingrained Italian attitudes and pushing for a more expansive brand of football across the age groups.
Like England, Italy would come to enjoy considerable success at youth level but Viscidi was fortunate that Azzurri coaches such as Antonio Conte and Mancini shared his vision and tournament failures did not see those plans downgraded or even demolished.
They trusted the process and it led them here, with these Euros showcasing a vibrant, exciting Italian team who, for all their improvements going forward, still possess that stiff underbelly.