July 07, (THEWILL) – Italy has qualified for the final as the first team to do so in the Euro 2020 competition on Tuesday with the heroics of Jorginho and Gianluigi Donarumma helping them to beat tough competitors Spain 4-2 on penalties at the Wembley Stadium in London.
It was a difficult result to swallow for the Spaniards, who will rightly feel hard done by as they were the better side in a throbbing first half. They dominated possession and created a flurry of chances. Yet, and not for the first time, their progress was hampered by the absence of a proper striker.
If Mikel Oyarzabal, first, and later, Dani Olmo had converted the presentable chances that came Spain’s way in the early period, there could have possibly been a different team going to the final instead of as it turned out in the end.
Before the goals came for both sides, Italy gave some indications of their attacking threats when they advanced into the danger areas of the Spanish goal. They almost broke the deadlock at the stroke of half time through Chelsea’s left back Emerson. The defender benefitted from a Lorenzo Insigne fantastic play but clipped the Spanish post with a one-time shot.
In the second period, there was a noticeable uptick in the pace of the game as though the managers had asked their players to pick up the speed in order to get the winner. Spain remained the most likely to score. They settled in quicker of the two and pushed the ball around in controlled possession. They were just lacking that final touch to make it count.
Then, Italy decided to give them a lesson on how to do it. A swift counterattacking move that began with the Italian goalie Donarumma at the half hour mark led to Ciro Immobile picking out Juventus’ Federico Chiesa. The Italian cut inside before hitting a curler that beat defender Eric Garcia and Unai Simon to give Italy the lead.
It looked over for Spain even if they did not let their heads fall after going behind with time running out. Luis Enrique introduced Alvaro Morata after the goal and it proved an inspired change because 10 minutes before the end of regulation time, the Spanish forward played a gorgeous one-two with Dani Olmo before burying an expert’s finish into the net.
Enrique’s charges attempted to build on the momentum of levelling the scores and pushed hard for a winner in the final moments of the game but the Roberto Mancini-led Italy side held on to close out the 90 minutes all square with Spain, one goal apiece.
It meant that Morata’s goal forced extra time on the two teams. Being the third consecutive game that the Spanish had had to carry on beyond extra time, they still threatened to defeat the Italians who were struggling to get some control of the action but looking more exhausted as the game wore on.
Spain started to show some tired legs and fatigued bodies and therefore could not break down the holding backline the Italians managed to keep firm and compact especially in the second period of extra time. With no further goals to account for, the result was decided by penalty-kicks.
The enduring fatigue encroached into the kicks as Spain and Italy missed their opening efforts. The goals came in the second kicks but Donnarumma helped Italy put one foot in the final when he saved Spain’s fourth attempt from Morata. When Jorginho scored his penalty after that, the Italian celebrations kicked off in earnest. They had reached the final.
Now, Italy will await the results of the other semi-finals fixture between Denmark and England to know which they will meet in the final of Euro 2020 safe in the knowledge that only a special performance by their opponents will keep them from winning the competition.