Leonardo Bonucci finally grabbed the equaliser after Italy dominated possession at Wembley, but England’s early goal means the UEFA EURO 2020 Final goes to extra time.
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The Azzurri were aiming to go 34 games unbeaten and win the European Championship for the second time after 1968, while this was England’s first major tournament final since the 1966 World Cup, which was also at Wembley Stadium.
Leonardo Spinazzola was in the stands on crutches after surgery on a torn Achilles tendon, so Italy retained the XI that beat Spain in the semi-final on penalties. Gareth Southgate missed Phil Foden, but transformed his side from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 with Kieran Trippier in and Bukayo Saka out, replicating the system used against Germany in the Round of 16.
It was the worst possible start for Italy, as within a couple of minutes Trippier’s cross had found Luke Shaw unmarked at the back post for a cushioned volley, while defenders had bunched centrally around Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. It was the first time the Azzurri had been behind in this tournament.
Jorginho had a knee problem after 20 minutes, but was able to continue after treatment, as Italy held possession for long periods while England focused on the defend and counter.
On 35 minutes, Federico Chiesa won a battle with Declan Rice and burst forward, drilling inches wide of the near post.
England sat further and further back to defend their lead and wait for rapid counters, as Ciro Immobile’s volley was charged down from 12 yards by John Stones.
Sterling went down very easily at the dawn of the second half, but the referee waved play on this time, while Insigne’s free kick curled wide of the far top corner.
Mancini had to make changes, introducing Bryan Cristante and Domenico Berardi for a False 9 system. Insigne stung Jordan Pickford’s gloves at the near post, then the goalkeeper got down well for a desperate one-handed save after Chiesa took on the entire England defence and squeezed his shot through a tiny gap.
Gianluigi Donnarumma got his fingertips to a Stones header which was going over anyway from a corner, but the Italy goal had been coming.
It arrived on a corner, flicked on at the near post by Cristante, then Verratti’s header came off the far stick and Leonardo Bonucci bundled the rebound over the line. At 34 years and 71 days, he became the oldest ever player to score in a Euros Final.
England had lost control of the game, so changed back to 4-3-3 with Bukayo Saka, but Berardi almost scored an absolutely spectacular goal when a long ball came over the top and he volleyed just over as Pickford came tearing out.
There was bad news when the extremely lively Chiesa was caught by Kyle Walker and after several minutes of limping, had to make way for Federico Bernardeschi.
Italy 1-1 England
Shaw 2 (E), Bonucci 66 (I)
Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Barella (Cristante 54), Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa (Bernardeschi 85), Immobile (Berardi 54), Insigne
England: Pickford; Walker, Maguire, Stones; Trippier (Saka 70), Rice (Henderson 74), Phillips, Shaw; Mount, Kane, Sterling
Ref: Kuipers (NED)