Italy reach final to continue storming comeback from World Cup failure

Thursday, 8 July 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Italy players celebrate after winning the penalty shoot-out Pool – Reuters


LONDON (Reuters): Italy reached the Euro 2020 final after edging Spain 4-2 on penalties following a compelling 1-1 draw after extra time on Tuesday, completing a remarkable revival after failing to qualify for the last World Cup.

Jorginho coolly rolled the decisive kick past Spain keeper Unai Simon in the semi-final at Wembley after Alvaro Morata had been thwarted by a fine save from Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma and Dani Olmo had blasted his effort over the bar.

Italy’s substitutes and coaching staff poured on to the pitch celebrate in front of their jubilant supporters behind the goal after Jorginho’s kick booked their place in Sunday’s final against either England or Denmark.

Roberto Mancini’s side took the lead on the hour through a sensational curler from Federico Chiesa to complete a sweeping counter-attack which began with keeper Donnarumma catching a Spain cross and rolling the ball out.

Morata, who had been dropped from the starting lineup after beginning all Spain’s previous games, equalised with 10 minutes left, calmly slotting into the bottom corner after bursting forward and exchanging a one-two with Olmo.

The goal was the latest twist in an eventful few weeks for Morata, who has been booed and even faced death threats from Spain supporters after a couple of poor showings, before redeeming himself with a crucial goal in the 5-3 win over Croatia.

But his tournament ended in dismay as his tame spotkick allowed Jorginho to clinch the win for Italy, continuing their sensational run, having earned a clean sweep of victories in the group stage and knocked out top-ranked Belgium in the quarter-finals.

Mancini’s side are looking to win the European Championship for the first time since 1968 and secure their first major trophy since winning the 2006 World Cup.

Wembley’s capacity was expanded to 60,000 and although coronavirus restrictions prevented fans from travelling abroad, the two countries’ expatriate communities turned out to pack each end behind the goal and generate a scorching atmosphere, which heightened the sense of occasion between two titans of international football.