Italy hasn’t lost a football game since September 2018 – it’s a whopping 33 games unbeaten with the last coming Wednesday night, the semifinals of Euro 2020.
A 34th and will be crowned European champions.
Italy are four-time world champions but have failed to qualify for the 2018 edition. On Sunday, they will face both England and Denmark in the Euro 2020 final.
After taking Italy back to their lowest ebb, manager Roberto Mancini was delighted to defy expectations after the Azzurri reached the final with a dramatic penalty win over Spain.
The transformation of Italy under Mancini in the last three years has been extraordinary. And they were made to fight as far as Spain, taking the right through Federico Chiesa’s magnificent goal, but they were reimbursed as Alvaro Morata’s equalizer made it 1-1 and forced extra time before the Azzurri. prevailed 4-2 on penalties.
After putting up seven unanswered goals, passing Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in the group stage, they lost a landslide victory over Austria, after beating Belgium in the quarter-finals despite losing the left-handed star. Leonardo Spinazzola for a torn Achilles tendon.
They are now closing out a second European Championship title.
“When you play in a World Cup or a European Championship, it’s intense, and it’s always a game where you have to dig and suffer to win,” Mancini said. “It can’t all be as smooth as our progress had been so far.
“We knew this was going to be really tough, and that’s why I think the players and everyone who has worked with us over the last three years deserves a lot of credit because it’s not been easy for anything.
“Almost no one thought we could do it. Even though we are in the final, then we are happy for the Italians everywhere.”
The Italians took to the streets across the country to celebrate, while 11,000 of their fans – all based in the UK whose restrictions prevent supporters from traveling abroad – were at Wembley to see Jorginho make the decisive blow in the shooting.
Italy were in a slump after losing to Sweden in a 2018 World Cup qualifying play-off and Mancini had to pick up the pieces from that.
He rebuilt them, and at this Euro they were almost the full side: from the former combination of central defender Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci to brilliant offensive defenders, a midfield trio with Marco Verratti, Jorginho and Nicolo Barella, is a first line livewire.
“The players wanted to play a football brand that people loved and so far they have been able to do exactly that,” Mancini added.
Euro 2020 will see him make his tenth appearance in a final, with six at the World Cup and three at previous European Championships.
But while they have lifted the World Cup four times, their only continental triumph to date has come as hosts of the 1968 four-team event.
Since then, there have been two final losses that have been painful in different ways.
In 2000, they were placed by a French gold medal in overtime in Rotterdam, while in 2012 Spain snatched them to win 4-0 in Kiev.
10 – Italy now reaches its 10th major tournament final (World Cup / Euro) – only Germany (14) has participated in more major tournament finals between European nations than Italy (incl Euro 2020). Pedigree. # EURO2020 #ITA pic.twitter.com/DlMASt57Cf
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 6, 2021
“There is still one step to take and now we have to rest because it was really very difficult,” Mancini added. “When you go into your sixth encounter with all the journeys you become very tired.”
Italy will hope that the seventh is even more memorable.
“Playing for my country in matches like these, which represent 60 million Italians, was an incredible dream,” said the former Juventus Chiesa player, the son of Mancini’s old Sampdoria teammate, Enrico Chiesa.
On Tuesday evening, Jorginho delivered a stunning home run to settle the matter after Spaniard Alvaro Morata, who equalized on a regular basis, was stopped by goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
The Azzurri had been dangerous on the counterattacks, but were against the run of the game when they took the lead in the 60th minute. Federico Chiesa picked up a loose ball to curl brilliantly in the far corner.
Spain made a well-deserved equalizer with 10 minutes left when substitute Morata played a beautiful one-two with Dani Olmo before walking home but were unable to find a winner.
“I just want to congratulate my players, we have shown that we are a team and we will continue to do that,” said Luis Enrique, Spain’s coach.