The Guardian (Nigeria)

Wembley weeps as Italy break English hearts

- By Christian Okpara

ENGLAND had everything going for them except the guile to overcome a welldrille­d Italian side. It was the most important final game in English football history since 1966, but the Three Lions could not muster firepower needed to subdue an Italian side, who were looking for their first internatio­nal crown since the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Before the game, every England supporter believed that yesterday was the ordained day for the Three Lions with full royal support to win an internatio­nal competitio­n since they won the 1966 World Cup. They scored the first goal in less than two minutes, but that was as much as they could offer in the game that lasted for more than 120 minutes.

Following Luke Shaw’s second minute goal, the Three Lions resorted to defending the lead, handing the initiative to the Azzuris. But they managed to hang on until the 67th minute when Leonardo Bonucci sneaked in the equaliser off a goalmouth scramble.

Thereafter, Italy dominated possession, but none of the teams could find the winner in regulation time. Thirty additional minutes could also not separate the sides and off to penalty shoot out they went.

Italy were aiming to go 34 games unbeaten and win the European Championsh­ip for the second time after 1968, while this was England’s first major tournament final since the 1966 World Cup, which was also at Wembley Stadium.

Gareth Southgate missed Phil Foden, but transforme­d his side from 4- 3- 3 to 3- 4- 3 with Kieran Trippier in and Bukayo Saka out, replicatin­g the system used against Germany in the Round of 16.

It was the worst possible start for Italy, as within a couple of minutes Trippier’s cross had found Luke Shaw unmarked at the back post for a cushioned volley, while defenders had bunched centrally around Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. It was the first time the Azzurri had been behind in this tournament.

Jorginho had a knee problem after 20 minutes, but was able to continue after treatment, as Italy held possession for long periods while

England focused on the defend and counter.

With no winner after 120 minutes, the teams had to be separated by penalty lottery.

Dominico Beradi scored Italy’s opening kick with Harry Kane replying for England.

When Andrea Belloti missed Italy’s second kick, Wembley erupted in ululation, with the belief that finally the appointed day has arrived.

Harry Maguire promptly scored to make it 2- 1 for the Three Lions, but Leonardo Bonucci restored parity albeit England had three kicks to Italy’s two.

However, Marcus Rashford missed England’s third kick. And when Jadon Sancho missed England’s fourth penalty the advantage reverted to Italy, who promptly surrendere­d it with a tame Jorginho kick.

The game ended in Italy’s favour however when 19year- old Bukayo Saka missed England’s final penalty, giving Italy their first European Championsh­ip trophy since 1968.

 ??  ?? Italian players celebratin­g their Euro 2020 victory over England at Wembley… yesterday
Italian players celebratin­g their Euro 2020 victory over England at Wembley… yesterday

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