After going 1-1 over 90 minutes and in extra time, Italy and Spain went to penalties to settle their Euro 2020 semifinal affair at London’s Wembley Stadium. Italy won a dramatic shootout and will play the final on July 11.

Italy penalties euro2020
Italy beat Spain in the semifinals at Euro 2020 and will play the final against either England or Denmark. (Image: Twitter/azzurri)

Italy was the first to score after 60 minutes, following a perfect counterattack started by keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Roberto Mancini’s men made the most of their transition to the other box, with Federico Chiesa finishing the play superbly with a shot past Unai Simon.

Spain didn’t give up and conquered the other half. The equalizer came 10 minutes before the end of normal time when Dani Olmo found the perfect space to play a ball to Morata, who finished with cold blood. Despite being superior over the two 15-minute halves of extra time, Spain couldn’t throw the KO punch, so the semifinal needed to be decided in a penalty shootout.

Manuel Locatelli missed first for Italy, then Spain’s Dani Olmo immediately let a ball fly over the crossbar. Italy didn’t miss any further shots while Alvaro Morata wasted Spain’s last penalty before Jorginho showed class with his excellently taken decider.

History in the making for Italy

Eight years after their previous finals appearance, where they lost 4-0 to Spain in Kyiv, Italy dares to dream again of a triumph. Their only Euro success came 53 years ago, in 1968, when they hosted the last act at the Olimpico in Rome and won 2-0 against Yugoslavia. Italy were also runners-up in 2000 when a “golden goal” from David Trezeguet in extra time awarded France the cup.

Now, the story is different. Italy’s players entered Euro 2020 following a season with little European success at the club level. At home, Juventus had its worst campaign in years, finishing fourth in Serie A. Previously, they won the Serie A title for nine years in a row.

Juve even risked missing out on Champions League football next season, with their qualification decided at the last minute. Still, four Juventus players were called by Roberto Mancini to play on Italy’s squad, including veteran defenders Chiellini (36) and Bonucci (34). In comparison, champions Inter had only two players called, Barella and Bastoni.

Mancini wanted hungry, motivated team players on his squad and made no compromise to his principles. Nobody can really dispute his decisions. Italy is currently on a 33-game unbeaten run and is playing the Euro 2020 final. When Mancini was appointed in May 2018, Italy had just missed qualifying for the 2018 World Cup and was at its lowest ranking within FIFA.

A win for Spinazzola

In their 2-1 win over Belgium in the quarterfinals, Italy lost one of their most important players at Euro 2020 to injury. Leonardo Spinazzola ruptured his Achilles tendon and is expected to return to action in 2022. The left-side back got an emotional farewell from his colleagues on his way to the clinic where he underwent surgery. The players’ thoughts were still with Spinazzola after Italy beat Spain and qualified for the Euro 2020 final.

Federico Chiesa dedicated his man of the match award to the Roma defender, while the other players and staff members sang his name on the pitch right after the game. Insigne put on Spinazzola’s number four shirt and led the singing.

“I dedicate the Man of the Match award to Spinazzola. The win too. He would have helped us tonight, but these things [injuries] can happen in football. We hope to please him in the final,” Federico Chiesa said after the game.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma echoed that sentiment in his post-match interview, saying “it’s impossible to describe what I am feeling. We dedicate the win to Spinazzola, he had sent us a video before the game.”

Italy takes lead in the betting race

Thanks to the fact that they’re already in the final, Italy is now at -120 to win Euro 2020. England is at +137, with Denmark way behind at +900. If England gets past Denmark on Wednesday evening (21:00 CET, Wembley) in the second semifinal, the bookies will favor them over Italy.

Roberto Mancini’s team will have an extra day of rest compared to their opponents ahead of Sunday’s final. Experts believe this detail should be taken into account considering the exhausting season European players completed.

On their way to the final, Italy needed extra time to beat Austria and Spain, so they will have spent 60 minutes more on the pitch than their opponents, provided the second semifinal is decided in regulation. As such, another day of rest could be vital for the Italians to recover.

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