On a night fraught with tension, Italy clinched its first major title for 15 years with a penalty shootout win over England in the Euro 2020 final.
Luke Shaw’s goal inside the opening two minutes gave England a lead it looked like it would hold onto all night, before a goalmouth scramble midway through the second half allowed Leonardo Bonucci to poke home an equalizer for Italy.
For the remainder of the match it felt as though extra-time and penalties were inevitable, as neither side seemed willing or brave enough to commit enough men forward to really trouble the opposing defenders.

England had suffered innumerable heartbreaks on penalties over the years and this time it was Italy’s turn to inflict yet more pain on beleaguered English fans as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed from the spot.

During the wild Italian celebrations, Bonucci — who had been immense all night and rightly earned the man of the match award — screamed “it’s coming to Rome” into the pitch side camera to rub yet more salt into the wounds of English fans.

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Italy players celebrate winning the penalty shootout against England.
Italy players celebrate winning the penalty shootout against England.

England’s wait to end its wretched run in major international competitions, stretching all the way back to 1966, will go for at least another year until the World Cup is hosted in Qatar.
Few would have expected Italy, which failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, to reach the final prior to the start of Euro 2020, much less win the entire competition, but Roberto Mancini’s side quickly established itself as one of the contenders after three thrilling group stage performances.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy’s hero in the penalty shootout with two fine saves, was deservedly named the player of the tournament and the goalkeeper heads up a group of talented stars that should ensure this side remains competitive for the foreseeable future.
As for England, this defeat is likely to sting for quite some time to come for players and fans alike, but the squad at least has the consolation of knowing it has provided the country with a tournament run not seen for more than five decades.
Wembley Way, the famous road leading up to England’s national stadium, was heaving as many as seven hours before kick off.
Many of the fans here in the early afternoon didn’t even have tickets, instead choosing to just soak up the atmosphere before moving on to watch the match elsewhere.
The fridges that stocked beer in one of the grocery stores closest to Wembley Stadium were almost completely empty by late morning.
For the vast majority of fans in attendance, this was something they had never experienced in their lifetimes. It had been 55 long years since England was last in a major international final and fans have known only heartache and disappointment since that World Cup triumph in 1966.
One couple considered it such a momentous occasion that they decided to get married on Wembley Way just hours before kick off, both dressed in full wedding attire and holding up England shirts with “Mr” and “Mrs” printed on the back.
Even when cheering on ‘golden generations’ of the past, England fans have never supported their national team with a fervor quite like this. Southgate and this group of players deserve much of the credit for stirring up such a feeling of national pride.

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Fans provided an electric atmosphere inside Wembley before kick off.
Fans provided an electric atmosphere inside Wembley before kick off.

Stars have regularly used their platform to speak out on social issues and, when it comes to Rashford’s fight against child food poverty, have even managed to reverse government policy.
“I think we’ve got good players and ice boys, but more importantly relatable boys,” English journalist Darren Lewis tells CNN. “I think the secret to the success of this team is that the people in charge of the England team — and I mean the PR team around them — have allowed them to speak on issues that affect them, on issues that people can connect with.
“They’ve allowed them to be normal. I remember being at the 2010 World Cup and England were keeping their players away from everyone, treating them like rock stars. I remember going down to the harbor in South Africa and the Dutch were walking around — they were finalists that year — walking around, talking to people, just enjoying themselves.
“I think this regime who are looking after the team, they realize that it’s important just to let the players be players, let them be men who people can connect with. If you walk through some parts of the crowd, I remember doing it after games and being struck by the diversity in the crowd; black, brown, white.
“Everyone wants to be a part of this England because they identify with [Raheem] Sterling, [Harry] Kane, [Tyrone] Mings, [Jordan] Henderson. They identify with these players because these players aren’t detached. They care about their communities. They care about the people in the places that they come from and that means a lot to the general public.”
Anyone but England?
However, that feeling of goodwill towards the national team seems to extend no further than England’s borders.
Ahead of the final, viral memes have shown a map of Europe covered in Italian flags to signify the support of every other country on the continent.
Much of the animosity towards England and its fans seems to have stemmed from the chant of “football’s coming home,” the chorus of the 1996 song ‘Three Lions’ which has become the national team’s adopted anthem.
The song was released ahead of Euro 96, hosted in England, and is about pessimism and despair, but still feeling hope that the national team may finally end years of heartache.


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