Federico Chiesa’s marvelous curled effort had given Italy the advantage on the hour mark, before substitute Alvaro Morata completed a fine pass to tie Spain just 10 minutes from regulation time.
Neither team could find the winning goal in overtime, the tie ended in a penalty shootout with Jorginho scoring the decisive penalty after Morata failed to send Italy to their first big international final since Euro 2012.
Head coach Roberto Mancini presided over a remarkable turnaround for Italy, which failed even to qualify for the World Cup in 2018.
Italy kicked off Euro 2020 on June 11 with a 3-0 victory over Turkey and became a surprise contender for the Henri Delaunay Trophy after impressive performances. the country’s second European Championship and its first since 1968.
Whichever team she faces in Sunday’s final – whether it’s England and Denmark, who meet on Wednesday – few will bet against the Italians.
Under Mancini, once again resplendent in his suave Armani suit, Italy has strayed considerably from the organized and gritty defensive style that has defined the Azzurri over the years.
Certainly some of those elements remain, especially in the leadership of veteran center defensive pair Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, but Euro 2020 saw Italy adopt a more fluid and aggressive style of attack.
Unfortunately, one of the key elements of the team’s success so far, Leonardo Spinazzola, will be out for several months after suffering an Achilles tendon injury in the quarter-final victory over Belgium.
Conversely, Spain started the tournament relatively turbulently, only managing to draw against Sweden and Poland. While Luis Enrique’s side certainly dominated these games, his lavishness in front of goal meant his relentless possession-based football lacked a sharp edge.
That all changed in the third group stage game against Slovakia, where an incredible homeward goal from goalkeeper Martin Dubravka opened the floodgates and Spain scored 10 goals in just two matches.
Tuesday’s semi-final between the two teams was the first time Wembley could host up to 60,000 fans – up from 45,000 in the round of 16 first leg – as the UK government had allowed increased capacity before the restrictions were lifted.
It had been well over a year since a stadium in the UK had hosted a crowd of this size and both groups of supporters were audibly relishing the opportunity to support their teams in droves.
If you had closed your eyes for 90 seconds during the Italian national anthem, you would have been forgiven for thinking you were back at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, where Italy had played all three of their group stage matches.
And while Spain’s wordless national anthem didn’t quite bring the same level of noise from the sea of red shirts across the stadium, their supporters were arguably the stronger of the two an once the match has started.
When some English fans – sitting in the top bowl at Wembley – started chanting “It’s Coming Home”, the Spanish and Italian fans united in boos to drown them very quickly.
Once Italy started to gain a foothold in the competition, Spanish fans responded with yells of ‘Olé’ whenever the team made a pass in their next period of possession, cheering madly after that. Ferran Torres produced a particularly polished skill.
That decision ultimately ended when Pedri found Dani Olmo, who recovered his own blocked shot and managed a smart save from Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, although the Spain striker perhaps should do better – something that is became a common expression at Euro 2020.
Spain were certainly the team that improved noticeably as the half progressed, but Mikel Oyarzabal likely squandered his squad’s best chance, blazing high above the bar and deep in. the Wembley Bottom Bowl after being selected by Jordi Alba.
The first half saw an intriguing ebb and flow, with neither team able to exert a significant period of domination.
On occasion an Italian player managed to slip behind the Spanish defense or find a small pocket of space, he was quickly suffocated by a number of white jerseys.
When Mancini’s team finally found an opportunity, Emerson could only find the exterior of the woodwork at a narrow angle, though Unai Simon’s outstretched hand may have been more casual than the shot deserved. .
After a quiet opening in the second half, the game came to life as the two teams traded quick-fire opportunities.
First of all, a completely unremarkable Sergio Busquets should have done better after being found by Oyarzabal at the edge of the zone, but he could only send his shot a few inches from the crossbar, before Chiesa made a nice Simon stopping at the next finish.
However, moments later, it would be Chiesa who finally found the breakthrough.
Italy’s quick counterattack, triggered by Donnarumma’s quick thinking, looked like it had been erased by Aymeric Laporte, but Chiesa responded considerably faster than Spain’s soft defense to retrieve the ball and wind a magnificent effort. in the far corner.
Wembley Stadium erupted and for the first time all evening it was clear how many Italian supporters
Spain responded well, pushed by the cries of “si se puede” – “yes, you can” – on behalf of its supporters, except that Oyarzabal and Olmo could not because they put their efforts far of the post when they are in the correct position.
Spain then had to thank Simon for keeping them in the game, with the goalkeeper coming out quickly to stifle the effort of substitute Domenico Berardi.
However, Spain quickly got the equalizer that their improved game deserved.
Another great pass was capitalized this time, as Morata – much maligned at times during this competition – and Olmo played a wonderful one-two and the former wonderfully recovered the return pass in his stride, before inserting himself calmly in the lower corner. .
With neither team able to score a winning goal, the tie would go into overtime, meaning every knockout game Spain played would last 120 minutes.
At this late stage, there was certainly no sign of nervousness holding these teams back.
The Spanish fans in particular felt this tie could be there to take it and they almost had another goal to cheer just minutes after the first extra period.
Gerard Moreno’s wicked free kick was parried far from the goal by Donnarumma and Marcos Llorente could only help a difficult one just off the post after a pinball in the penalty area.
The Italian fans fell into nervous silence with their team now on their back foot, while a small part of the Spanish fans at the other end of the stadium started performing an impromptu ‘Macarena’.
The Italians were momentarily right to cheer, believing Berardi had found a late winner, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
In the draw to decide the end of the shootout, Chiellini laughed as he jokingly tried to convince his counterpart Jordi Alba to allow the penalty shootout in front of Italian fans.
Alba remained unmoved, even as a beaming Chiellini took her in a bear hug. Donnarumma and Simon also kissed before the shooting started.
After Manuel Locatelli and Olmo traded misfires with their teams’ first shots on goal, the next five penalties were all scored before Morata saw his weak effort saved by Donnarumma.
Jorginho stepped up Jorginho, coolly taking his trademark little stutter to send Simon the wrong way and casually roll the ball into the corner.
The mass of blue jerseys behind the goal rose as thousands of fans stepped forward to celebrate with their hero.
Reaching the final was perhaps something that even the most ardent Italian fans could not have predicted with confidence heading into the tournament, but winning it all now seems like a very realistic possibility.
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