by Pawan Atri
Italy has won the European Championship only once, way back in 1968. Since then they have made it through the final of the prestigious tournament twice, but lost both times to France and Spain in 2000 and 2012 respectively.
Italian manager Roberto Mancini believes his team has proved their critics wrong by reaching the final of Euro 2020 after beating three-time champions Spain in a tense penalty shootout on Tuesday.
With their win over Luis Enrique’s team, Italy also extended their remarkable unbeaten run to 33 matches, a winning streak that started back in September 2018.
Italy deserve to be in the final for their whole tournament, but Spain deserved it on the night. A brilliant match, between two fine teams. Real hope for Spain about 2022, especially with the way they grew into this game.
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) July 6, 2021
”Almost no one believed we could do it, and yet we are into the final”, Mancini said after Italy’s semifinal victory over Spain.
“There are games where you have to suffer. They can’t all be as smooth as our progress so far. We knew it would be a tough game. That is why the players and everyone who worked with us over the last three years deserve great credit, because it wasn’t easy”.
“We are delighted to have provided this wonderful evening’s entertainment to the Italian people. We still have one game to go”, the 56-year-old manager added.
The Azzurri as the Italian team is popularly called was the second-best side for large parts of the contest, but somehow managed to hang on, dig in and ultimately escaped through on penalties.
Despite Federico Chiesa giving Italy the lead with his 60th minute goal, Spain dominated the proceedings at Wembley.
In fact, Spain was better than Italy in almost all areas of the game, but still came out second in the match.
For instance, in terms of ball possession, Spain outpaced Italy, 71% to 29%. The team from the Iberian Peninsula completed 908 passes, while Italy had only 387 during the contest.
Italy had just seven shots on goal versus Spain’s 16. The three-time European champions also made fewer offsides – one in comparison to Italy’s eight.
While Italy scored the first goal, Spain’s relentless pressure on them eventually paid off as Alvaro Morata scored the equaliser in the 80th minute.
After a scoreless overtime the match went to a penalty shootout, where Italy came out on top after Spain’s star Morata missed their last shot on goal.
On the other hand, Italian midfielder Jorginho was calm and collected before converting his penalty to secure his side’s place in Sunday’s showpiece final in London.
Although Mancini was delighted to see his side reach the final, he acknowledged that Spain was the better side in the match.
“In terms of ball possession, Spain are the best around. They caused us problems, we had to dig in when we needed to, and create opportunities where we could. We wanted to reach the final and kept trying until the end. Penalties are a lottery, but I want to take my hat off to Spain, they are a wonderful team”, the Italy head coach said.
Chiesa, who scored Italy’s lone goal before extra-time and was declared the UEFA Star of the Match, was ecstatic after the win.
“I cannot describe my emotions in words. Spain were great, they have star players but we fought until the end and we did it. When [Manuel] Locatelli missed the first penalty, everyone was calm saying we can do it, and at the end our group helped us in the moment”, the 23-year-old said after the match.
Former India skipper Renedy Singh agreed with Chiesa’s statement as he believes Mancini’s team is looking extremely determined to win Euro 2020.
“When the tournament started no one gave them any chance. Italy was not even expected to reach the quarterfinals, but see how they have proved all their critics wrong”.
“They are riding a huge wave of momentum right now and it will be hard to bet against them. For me, their never-ending fighting spirit and determination to overcome difficult situations is what stands out and that’s why I believe we could see them lifting the Euro 2020 trophy on Sunday”, Singh told Sputnik on Wednesday.