Gianluigi Donnarumma heroics puts Italy on top of Europe after 1968

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Italian players celebrate after winning Euro 2020. (Reuters)

London: Italy secured their first European Championship title since 1968 as Gianluigi Donnarumma denied England to win 3-2 in penalties at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday in the final. Both sides ended 1-1 at the end of the regulation time. 

England, who were playing their first major final under Gareth Southgate and also the first since their 1966 World Cup triumph, probably lost hours before the match started when thousands of English fans made their way into the stadium ticketless breaching security. 

As a result, clashes broke out between the ticketholders and the non-ticket ones as the stewards were left clearing the crowded staircases and exits. Donnarumma saved Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after Marcus Rashford hit a post, as Federico Bernardeschi, Leonardo Bonucci and Domenico Berardi all scored for the Italians.

England had the upper hand as Manchester United defender Luke Shaw gave hosts the lead in the second minute itself. Southgate had opted for a three-man defence allowing Shaw and Keiran Trippier to play as wing-backs freely. The move brought results as Trippier curled in a Harry Kane assist long enough for fast-moving Shaw to volley past Donnarumma.

England maintained their dominance with Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips bossing the midfield but Italy slowly got back into the game. The Italians could have levelled in the first half itself had Federico Chiesa not shot wide. Chiesa’s narrow miss was just a warning for what was to come in the second half as Roberto Mancini made better use of substitutes than his counterpart.

Italy dominated the second half completely and a deserving equaliser came in the 67th minute when Leonardo Bonucci netted on a rebound from Marco Verrati’s header shortly after Lorenzo Insigne sent a 20-yard freekick wide and English custodian Jordan Pickford denied Chiesa.

Italy had a golden chance to win the title in the extra time but a 30-yard freekick from Federico Bernardeschi was foiled by Pickford.   

Pickford kept English hopes alive when he denied Andrea Belloti and Jorginho but England’s dreams of a first major title in 55 years were quashed after Rashford hit the post and big-man Donnarumma did the rest to lift the title. 

From failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup to conquering Europe three years later, Mancini gave Italy a redemption arc that one could only dream about. The Italian boss was never short of words for his boys.

“The guys were extraordinary. I don’t have words for them, this is a magnificent group. There were no easy games and this one became very difficult, but then we dominated,” Mancini stated. “You need a bit of luck with penalties and I’m a little sorry for England. This team has grown so much, I think it can still improve. We are so happy for all.”

Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo won the Golden Boot with five goals and an assist while Donnarumma was rightfully handed the Player of the Tournament. Spanish 18-year-old Pedri Gonzalez, who took the world by the awe of his talent, got Best Young Player of the Tournament while Pickford got the Golden Gloves.

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