Italy won EURO 2020 above all thanks to their courage, to win, to play, to enjoy their football, and that’s where Susy Campanale saw England lacking.
Before the Final at Wembley, Roberto Mancini said Italy were a team who “had the courage to enjoy themselves” and needed to do that one last time. They did that, whereas England showed they didn’t ultimately trust themselves enough.
Going into the decisive match, everything was going in England’s favour. They had home advantage, an easier run-in, no injuries other than Phil Foden who barely featured anyway, just one game going into extra time. When it came down to it, the Azzurri did indeed have the courage to enjoy themselves, to play their football and keep pushing even after what Giorgio Chiellini described as a “punch in the face” goal within two minutes. As starts to a Final go, against a team that conceded one goal all tournament and that was a free kick, it’s the worst you can have.
It was the first time Italy had been behind in this competition. The first time they’d been in a trailing situation since the game against Bosnia and Herzegovina, in fact. This was a new test for Mancini’s men and they passed it with flying colours. Keep calm and carry on, as the English love to say. It’s not something Italians tend to do, but evidently we’re learning.
England, on the other hand, tried to be old-school Italian. Anyone who has seen what the English do to pasta could tell you that was not going to end well. Much like a murdered spaghetti, they overcooked it. They boiled it to a horrible, soggy death. Nobody can park the bus for 118 minutes of football, not even the most classic of Catenaccio teams from the 1960s. Giving up possession was evident from the choice of a three – or let’s be honest, five – man defence, but you do need to counter as well as just defend.
Southgate deserves credit for getting England to the Final for the first time in 55 years, but he had the options on the bench to really frighten this Italy side and chose not to use them. It was reminiscent of the way the Azzurri missed out on the 2018 World Cup, leaving pure talent on the bench when they desperately needed to score against Sweden in that play-off. That Italy squad wasn’t even so bad, it just had absolutely zero courage. This is what Mancini above all transformed, that belief is flowing all the way through the group, every single man fully involved.
The Azzurri were falling to pieces throughout the match, Leonardo Spinazzola so badly missed, then Nicolò Barella, Jorginho, Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Chiesa all hobbling away. This was a 26-man squad through and through, everyone knew exactly what to do when coming on, even when the shape shifted constantly in that second half.
Of all the nations who shouldn’t be playing for penalties, who really ought to try to win in regular time, England had to go for it. Instead, they continued to park the double decker. It was as if the excessive, ridiculous optimism of their media and fans who spent all day celebrating in as violent a fashion as possible sapped them of courage rather than giving them belief.
England brought on Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho with seconds to spare, making it entirely obvious their only job was to take penalties. That is too much pressure on young lads who haven’t had anywhere near as much playing time in this tournament as they deserved. Even Jorginho saw his spot-kick saved tonight and he’s usually got ice in his veins.
Seeing Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini locked in a tearful embrace was everything they deserved. They didn’t get to win playing for Italy, they were cruelly denied at Wembley when representing Sampdoria in that European Cup Final, but it was all worth it because it led to this moment. One they could appreciate more now, after age, illness and experience.
The most important thing is that nobody – NOBODY – can dare say Italy didn’t deserve this trophy. We played the best, most entertaining, positive, spectacular football. We dominated possession and had far more chances in the Final. We adapted to adversity and fought back. We had the courage to enjoy ourselves. Torna a casa.