• Matt Johns

Intense penalty shootout sends Italy to the final of Euro 2020

The first Euro 2020 semi-final had to be concluded by penalties, after going the distance, with Spain and Italy having a goal apiece after 120 minutes at Wembley Stadium. Jorginho’s signature spot kick was the decider between the two footballing giants, leaving the Spanish heartbroken.

The two nations are no stranger to each other, especially in the knockout rounds of major competitions. Spain got the better hand in their two European Championship triumphs in 2008 and 2012, but the Italian’s got some revenge four years later in 2016.

However, they are both very different sides now, with the Italians bringing in the ever-majestic Roberto Mancini. He has since transformed a national side that was in disarray, to now going on a 32-game unbeaten run before this encounter.

The Spaniards are also witnessing a changing of the guard, with the youth of Pedri, Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres coming in to try and fill in the huge shoes of Andreas Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas.

Italy have been the standout force in this tournament, with only Austria holding them to more than the regulation 90 minutes.

Whereas, Spain on the other hand have been less convincing, having not won their group and their two knockout rounds against Croatia and Switzerland have gone to at least extra time.

As expected, Italy started the game the better of the two sides, with Nicolo Barella hitting the post early on, however he was adjudged to have been in an offside position.

Luis Enrique’s side did gradually get into the game, with Pedri feeding some delightful balls into the feet of both Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal, but to no avail.

This end to end tempo continued for the rest of the first 45 minutes, with the Italians probably coming closest, after Chelsea’s Emerson smashed the frame of the goal late on.

This lightning paced game continued after the break, with the Spaniards looking more impressive than they have all tournament.

However, this high pressure from the three-time European Champions left them wide open at the back.

Federico Chiesa took advantage of this in the 60th minute, pouncing on a loose ball inside the box. He placed an excellent finish inside the right post, leaving Unai Simon with no chance.

Spain had no alternative but to go full throttle, as a place in the final was at stake. Oyarzabal really should have levelled, after Koke dinked a lovely ball into his head, but he missed it completely leaving his head in hands.

This relentless pressure came to fruition in the 80th minute, when Olmo set substitute Alvaro Morata through, who sent the ball straight past Gianluigi Donnarumma to get his third of the tournament.

This late leveller meant that the first semi-final was heading to extra time, leaving the Spanish and Italian faithful in the Wembley crowd on tenterhooks.

Opportunities came few and far and between in this extra 30 minutes, with Spain having a couple of half chances. Domenico Berardi thought he had got the winner for Italy, but he was clearly in an offside position.

This meant that the first finalist of Euro 2020 was being decided in a nail-biting penalty shootout.

Both opening penalties were not scored, with Manuel Locatelli having his saved and Olmo’s penalty was skied, leaving the scores level.

These missed penalties did not phase the next to step up with Andrea Belotti, Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Bernardeschi netting Italy’s next three.

Gerard Moreno and Thiago Alcantara also scored Spain’s next two, leaving Morata to step up to level it at three apiece. However, the Juventus forward’s tame spot kick was comfortably saved by Donnarumma.

This left Chelsea’s Jorginho with the task of sending his country through to their first European Championship final, since losing to Spain in 2012. The

midfielder hit the penalty as cool as you like, sending the passionate Italian crowd into frenzy.

This extends Mancini’s Italy’s unbeaten run to 33 games, meaning that they will go head to head with either England or Denmark in Sunday’s final, where they will be hoping to win their second title.