A highly anticipated matchup between two of the most iconic footballing nations was bound to cause fireworks. Both Italy and Spain have been giants in a slumber, but their Euro 2020 campaigns, however, have reinvigorated optimism about the future of both countries on the big stage. With exciting young talents blending harmoniously with experience, both sides have put on a remarkable show throughout the course of the tournament.
In the quest to reach the gates of Wembley stadium, the titanic semifinal matchup saw Italy prevail in an extremely hard-fought battle. The end of regulation time could not separate the two following some pulsating action and spurned chances.
The repeat of the 2012 Euro final got off to a flying start with Spain pressing high and Italy attempting to catch them out on the break. The latter were on a mission to extend their unbeaten streak to 33 and winning run to 14 games on the trot.
The game was played at a rapid, almost frantic pace at times. Spain began to take control of proceedings after the first five minutes passed. Their interchanging of positions, fluid movement and incisive passing caused real problems for the Azzuri.
Most of Spain’s attacking threat seemed to be concentrated on the left flank with Barcelona duo Jordi Alba and Pedri, the tournament’s breakout star linking up aided by the La Masia graduate Dani Olmo, who was a real bright spark for the Spaniards.
Italy failed to create anything of real substance throughout the first half, with their best chance coming at the stroke of half-time as Emerson hit the bar, and even then it wasn’t a very high-quality chance. The Spain press had them in twos and threes as the Italians turned over possession cheaply on numerous occasions.
The second half was a lot more end-to-end as Spain continued to press but to no avail. Instead, the Azzuri managed to find a break, and a superb curled effort from Federico Chiesa nestled into Unai Simon’s far corner.
The goal seemed to awaken Italy as they seemed to have a lot more impetus going forward. They showed more intent, launching passes upfield to try and get behind the defense.
But with 10 minutes to go, a scything move from Spain saw Olmo slide in a wonderful pass into the path of the substitute Alvaro Morata, who finished emphatically to make it 1-1. Into extra time the two sides went.
The first and second halves of extra time were an accurate representation of the night as a whole, with Spain bossing the ball and creating chances. The second half was a lot more open, and Italy even had a Domenico Berardi goal ruled out for offside.
Alas, neither party could break the deadlock after ET and a penalty shootout loomed ominously. The nerves and the pressure could be felt all through the stadium.
A shootout that was incredibly tense, went the way of Italy as the star of the match, Dani Olmo and the goalscorer Alvaro Morata missed their spot-kicks, sending Roberto Mancini’s men through to the final of Euro 2020.
Spain dominated almost the entire game, but alas, their demons from the penalty spot came back to haunt them. Italy will now face the winners of the second semi-final between England and Denmark at Wembley again on Sunday night.
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