It was heartbreak in the end for England, Jordan Pickford and Dominic Calvert-Lewin as the Three Lions lost in the penalty shootout to Italy who had to come from behind to win.
England got off to a flying start scoring the quickest goal in European Championship Final history, going ahead in the second minute from a counter attack after an Italian corner. Kieran Trippier found his fellow wingback Luke Shaw at the far post to volley home even before most of the Wembley crowd had settled into their seats.
WHAT A START FOR ENGLAND!!!— ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2021
LUKE SHAW SCORES IN THE 2ND MINUTE pic.twitter.com/yJVrDqLs6E
Italy have been a threat throughout the tournament with their direct running style but looked remarkably flat for most of the first half as the Three Lions had no issues keeping them at bay, with Pickford not even making a save.
If anything, England looked more dangerous on the break creating a couple of chances from setpieces as the Azzurri struggled to pick up players in their own box with their zonal marking system. They even had a legitimate shout for a penalty turned down as Raheem Sterling burst into the box and then went down as the ball ran away from him.
No penalty given this time from the ref. pic.twitter.com/xLqSpW5xd6— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 11, 2021
Italy came out a different side in the second half, especially close to the hour mark after Roberto Mancini took off Ciro Immobile and Nicolo Barella for Domenico Berardi and Bryan Cristante. Federico Chiesa had another trademark jinking run and shot which Pickford did well to dive low and parry away.
Then minutes later the English luck ran out. From a corner that was headed on, Pickford saved from close range off a Marco Verratti header, but the ball bounced off the inside of the post and fell fortunately for Leonardo Bonucci to slam home with Harry Kane unable to stop him.
The equalizer sparked manager Gareth Southgate into making a change, with Tripper coming off for Bukayo Saka and Jordan Henderson on for Declan Rice, with the formation changing to a 4-4-2. However, it was still Italy looking the more dangerous side with Berardi getting to a high ball over the backline a hair before Pickford but firing his volley over.
The remainder of normal time petered out with both sides not necessarily trying too hard to find the winner even though Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers gave six minutes of time added on.
A Berardi error in the middle in the sixth minute of the first period of extra time allowed Sterling to run in on goal but Italian captain Giorgio Chiellini came sliding in to clear. From the corner Kalvin Phillips had a shot from outside the box that slid just wide of the post.
A raft of changes slowed the game down as both sides took the time to develop new chemistry as they gauged their opponents, with Pickford called into action early in the second half as substitute Federico Bernardeschi’s low freekick was fizzed at him. The Everton goalie couldn’t gather cleanly but then recovered before Jorginho could get to it.
The remainder of the time passed without any other cause for concern and a penalty shootout was going to be needed to separate the two sides, even after the Azzurri had dominated possession with 65.6% of the ball and a 19-6 shot advantage.
Berardi and Kane dispatched their penalties with no issues. Pickford bouncing up and down on the line seemed to do enough to throw off Belotti who hit it low to the goalie’s left and he was able to save, and then Maguire slammed his into the top corner to put England in the lead after two rounds of the shootout.
With the pressure on Bonucci now, the veteran calmly lifted the ball over a diving Pickford, but then Rashford hit the outside of the post after sending Donnarumma the wrong way to tie the game up.
Bernardeschi then showed nerves of steel sending the ball down the middle as Pickford dived to his right. Substitute Jaden Sancho then saw his shot saved by Donnarumma and it looked like the trophy was slipping away.
That brought Jorginho to the spot, and Pickford did brilliantly to guess correctly, parried the ball and it hit the post and he was able to gather safely! That meant Saka had to score to keep England in the game but his penalty was poor and Donnarumma saved easily to lead Italy to the European Championship. So close yet so far for England, again.