Settle in. It’s about to get realllllly tense.
It even starts awkwardly, with a dispute about who won the coin toss. (Or was it Jordi Alba trying to steal the toss? Hmmmm.) Either way, Chiellini is in hysterics, and Brych isn’t buying it.
Italy will go first.
Locatelli. He is SAVED by Simon!
Dani Olmo also shoots left and SKIES IT OVER THE BAR!
Andrea Bellotti SCORES lower left. Italy 1, Spain 0
Gerard Moreno SCORES. Italy 1, Spain 1
Bonucci SCORES. Italy 2, Spain 1
Thiago SCORES, cool as a cucumber. Italy 2, Spain 2
Bernardeschi SCORES upper right. Italy 3, Spain 2
Morata SAVED. What a terrible, timid penalty. Italy 3, Spain 2
Jorghino SCORES lower right, after his customary pre-penalty hop. Italy 4, Spain 2
ITALY WINS and heads to the final!
Heartbreak for Spain, and especially for Morata.
In 2017, Italy disastrously failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958. “National Shame” and “Apocalypse” were typical headlines.
Outside of the soccer pitch, 2020 was, well, not good. But late on Tuesday night, Italy was a joyous, horn-honking and over-the-moon land as its national men’s soccer team won its semifinal match against Spain and advanced to the European finals.
The country erupted just before midnight after a decisive, elegant and slow-rolling penalty kick. In the Monteverde neighborhood of Rome, airhorns, hoarse voices (“Viva l’Italia”), cherry bombs and honking horns resounded, drowning out the occasional passing ambulance. Weaving Vespas flew the Italian flag as fireworks sparkled over the city center. In the northern city of Verona, fans marched with flags draped from their necks. Some parts of the southern city of Naples seemed in parade.
During the game, the sticky July night in Rome felt like August, when the city empties out. Everyone was inside, watching the game, coming out to cheer from their balconies after Federico Chiesa, the team’s young star, scored. The fans were back agonizing on their couches when Spain answered. But it was raucous when the victory finally came.
“Italy of Dreams: It’s In the Finals,” read the headline in Corriere dello Sport.
The Italian coach, Roberto Mancini, when asked on Italian television what he had done to bring the team from the depths of the 2017 disappointment to the heights of the European championships, gave credit to his young players, who were considered a lesser power than many of the teams they vanquished. “We have to gather our strength that remains and get ready for the final,” he said.
But on Tuesday night, Italy’s fans left nothing in the tank.
Tweeeeet, tweeeeet, tweeeeeeeeeeeeet. Felix Brych blows his whistle, and we’ve arrived at full time.
Penalties are next, so don’t go anywhere.
A brief moment of drama as Berardi curls off a defender, collects a looping feed and scores past Simon. But the offside flag had gone up immediately. False alarm.
And on we go. Tick, tick, tick, tick …….
I am ordinarily pro-penalties, but this game deserves the bedlam and desolation of a late winner. Would settle for penalties ONLY in the case of a 2-2 draw.
— Rory Smith (@RorySmith) July 6, 2021
Chiesa, who scored the goal that Italy thought had punched its ticket to the final, is substituted, so no penalties for him. Bernardeschi, a different kind of player from the same Juventus team, takes his place.
Pau Torres comes on for Eric Garcia in Spain’s defense a few moments later. That’s six subs used for each time, so they’ll finish with these lineups.
Italy is most definitely hanging on here, with the 36-year-old Chiellini and the 34-year-old Bonucci probably the most vulnerable. Fortunately for Mancini, their coach, they are also the most experienced and the most reliable as seeing out this type of game.
That’s the end of the first extra period, with Spain’s fresh legs — Marcos Llorente, this time — firing in one last cross that Italy scrambles to clear.
A bit of a train wreck for Italy there. Dani Olmo whips in a ground ball off the free kick that appears to surprise Donnarumma, who parries it. It falls to a different Spanish player, but his shot is deflected and the goalkeeper dives and — happily — watches it roll past his left post.
The slog begins. It feels as if it’ll take some more magic to get another goal past Italy’s defense. But Spain has been just as good since Chiesa’s goal, and it’s younger than the team Italy has out there now.
90’ + 3
Brych blows his whistle promptly again, and that’s that for regular time.
We’ll go to two 15-minute extra sessions, plus penalties as needed. This won’t be new for Spain: both of its knockout matches have gone to shootouts.
Italy’s did not; it went to extra time in the round of 16 before Pessina scored to beat Austria.
As we cross 90 minutes at Wembley, and extra time looms, Chiellini appears to handle the ball — at least in Spanish eyes he did — in his own area while he fell to break up a play, but Brych waves play onward.
That’s reviewable, remember, now that the ball has gone out of play. (Nope; they will not even look.)
GOAL!!! SPAIN! Morata has tied it!
What a lovely goal that was, an equalizer out of nothing, and in the blink of an eye. It started with a pass out of the defense that sliced through the midfield straight to Morata, who turned and took off. He offloaded to Olmo but never broke stride and got it right back, slotting home past Donnarumma.
That had to feel wonderful for Morata, who has been abused by fans, lost his starting spot today, and then came on and may have saved his country’s title hopes almost single-handedly.
Spain’s players, coaches and fans all look nervous, and they have every reason to be worried: Few teams in the world can bar the door the way Italy can.
More changes for Spain: Manchester City’s Rodri comes on for Koke in midfielder, and Gerard Morena replaces Oyarzabal, who will go sit on the bench and try to figure out how he missed that open header.
Italy is making changes, too, to bolster its defense for the last 20 minutes here. Matteo Pessina replaces Marco Verratti, who is in no hurry to go, and now Emerson strolls over and gives way to Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi.
Oh dear: Spain’s Koke chips a wonderful ball over the top to a wide-open Oyarzabal, in clear behind the Italy defense, and he whiffs on the header.
Morata immediately replaces Ferran Torres in Spain’s attack. No time for false nines or false anything now: Spain needs a goal.
Immobile departs at the same time, replaced by Berardi.
GOAL! Federico Chiesa breaks the deadlock!
A magnificent break by Italy, started by Donnarumma, who rolled out the first ball from inside his area. In only a few touches the Italians had Spain on its heels. The first cutback and turn was stopped, but the free ball came to Chiesa and he curled it around Unai Simon. Beautiful goal and — most important — Italy leads, 1-0.
Spain will be infuriated by that, as it has had the better of the game and now is looking up at the scoreboard.
Less than a minute later Busquets pops up for an open shot at the top of Italy’s area and fizzes it wide. He probably wishes he had that one back. Didn’t miss by much.
Sergio Busquets chops down Immobile to stop an Italy breakout in its tracks, but he pays for that risk/reward calculation with the game’s first yellow card. He’ll need to be careful now, of course, but if anyone can play on a yellow, it’s Busquets.
Unai Simon, whose misplay against Croatia produced one of the worst own goals of the tournament, manages to kick a clearance directly sideways in his own area. That’s tough to do, and a scrambling teammate knocks it out for a corner as he keeps it away from Insigne. But what was his goalkeeper thinking there?
Italy kicks off after holding up the restart with a leisurely return to the field. Spain, out first, looks eager to get going.
How many Ballons D’Or do we think Pedri wins, providing he stays away from major injuries? My instinct is three, but it could be as many as “All of Them.”
— Rory Smith (@RorySmith) July 6, 2021
Spain 0, Italy 0. A probing half with relatively few chances still manages to annoy a few players, who accost Brych to ask about his quick whistle for halftime. Olmo, who thought he had a bit of space opening up, is the most annoyed, but Jordi Alba wants an explanation, too.
Maybe Spain shouldn’t be complaining, though. It went to extra time, and then to penalties, in both of its past two matches. A few minutes saved is a few minutes saved.
Not sure Italy will be desperately unhappy with that. Spain, as they presumably expected, had most/all of the ball, but only really created one (maybe two) noteworthy chance(s).
— Rory Smith (@RorySmith) July 6, 2021
A few minutes before halftime and both teams are playing to type:
Italy has been resolute defensively and dangerous on the counterattack, but it has not found a goal. Yet.
Spain has been adventurous and lovely on the ball and in control of possession, but it has not found a goal. Yet.
Dani Olmo, the 23-year-old Leipzig midfielder, arrives at a free ball in Italy’s penalty area and takes a whack, but Donnarumma dives to his right to punch it away! Best chance of the game so far. It came from a deflected cross off Bonucci, but Olmo was first to it.
Unai Simon goes wandering again, a bit inexplicably, and is caught off his line for the second time today. Emerson got in behind on the left this time, but his cutback pass was off-target and the chance vanished just as quickly as it had appeared.
Italy is too good at taking advantage of tiny openings like that to give them more than a couple. At some point, they’ll cash one in.
First 20 minutes have made it abundantly clear that, if they’re going win, this is going to have to be an evening for the old, grinding, indomitable Italy, rather than the new, fun, whirlwind one.
— Rory Smith (@RorySmith) July 6, 2021
Dani Olmo, Oyarzabal and Ferran Torres are changing places easily up front for Spain, trying to confuse Italy’s central defense or at the very least draw its midfielders — and anyone else, really — out of position.
It’s a pretty fluid situation, but one that’s worth watching. It has already produced a half chance, and now has just won a corner.
A bit of sustained pressure from the Spanish now, and a threaded through ball from Pedri to Oyarzabal almost springs him in the penalty area. But the ball was a touch behind him, and when he reached back but left it for a split second, Italy cleared away the danger.
A bit of probing in a cluttered midfield in the early going, and with the exception of Barella’s shot, which was offside anyway, no real danger yet.
Nicolo Barella hits the post! He was offside way back at midfield on the initial pass, the linesman quickly reveals, but Italy flirted with disaster there. Unai Simon was wandering, and the defense’s very high line was caught out there.
Tweeeeeeet from Felix Brych. We are underway in London.
The teams are out of the tunnel and on the field for the anthems. The Italian fans booed Spain’s — the “Marcha Real” — but not loud enough for anyone to think they were really mad about it. And the Spanish supporters couldn’t really drown them out anyway once it began: Spain’s anthem is one of four in the world with no lyrics.
Italy’s anthem is next: Their starting 11 all sings along to “Il Canto degli Italiani” and it’s Chiellini who has taken on Gianluigi Buffon’s role of Loud Man in Line.
The teams are out for Italy vs. Spain and the big news is that Álvaro Morata starts on the bench for Spain, replaced at the head of the attack by Mikel Oyarzabal.
Morata has not been great at the Euros, but that is going to sting.
Spain’s team: Simon, Azpilicueta, Garcia, Laporte, Jordi Alba, Koke, Busquets, Pedri, Olmo, Oyarzabal, Ferran Torres.
Italy’s most notable change — Emerson for Leonardo Spinazzola — was expected since the moment Spinazzola ruptured his Achilles tendon against Belgium on Friday.
He had been a terror for Italy throughout the tournament, and his team will miss him dearly.
Italy’s lineup: Donnarumma, Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson, Barella, Jorginho, Verratti, Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne.
The absence of Álvaro Morata from Spain’s team, on one level, makes sense: He has been better than he has been given credit for during this tournament, but he has perhaps not been as good as Spain needed him to be. It was hard to envision him suddenly striking gold against that grizzled Italian defense of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, his Juventus teammates.
But at the same time, such a shift is not without its risks for Luis Enrique, the Spanish coach. Morata’s replacement, Mikel Oyarzabal, does not have the same experience in these big occasions (although he did score the winning goal in the delayed final of the 2020 Copa del Rey a couple of months ago).
More important, Oyarzabal is not a like-for-like replacement. His presence suggests a change in approach: Enrique has effectively decided that his team cannot hope to go through or over Chiellini and Bonucci, so it will have to go around them, and so he will be hoping to slip Oyarzabal into the seams of Italy’s defense.
Enrique has always preached a slightly less circuitous version of Spanish soccer’s gospel of patient possession; this team may well stick a little more closely to tradition.
There is a point, at the top of the stairs outside the Wembley Park tube station, where everybody stops. They stop there so reliably that Transport For London has to line the spot with a dozen or so staff members, clad in luminescent vests, to remind people to keep walking. It is the point where you get the perfect photo: the stadium in profile, the sweep of the Wembley arch, the sea of people making their pilgrimage along Wembley Way.
For a year and a half, on the rare occasions when Wembley has been in use, the photo has not worked: the road has been so deserted that even the man standing off to the left with a megaphone and a sign reading “Jesus is Life” didn’t bother coming along to save the souls of the damned. There were too few souls to save.
The picture almost worked in the first few weeks of Euro 2020, though in truth Wembley Way was still a little too sparsely-populated: the stadium was, for the group games, only at a quarter of its capacity, and even when that was increased ahead of England’s win against Germany it was still only half full.
On Tuesday, for the first time, it worked as it should. Wembley Way was full of flags and scarves and color and noise: any fears that travel restrictions meant that this semifinal would be a mild supporting act to the main event, from an English perspective, that will arrive on Wednesday proved unfounded.
There are more than enough Italians and Spaniards in Britain — more of the former than the latter, if the crowds outside were anything to go by — to make it feel like a partisan event, like a proper game. For the first time in a long time, Wembley feels as if it is full of life, as if it is working as it should.
Christian Eriksen and the paramedics who helped save his life after he collapsed on the field during Denmark’s first game at Euro 2020 have been invited to attend Sunday’s final in London by UEFA, the tournament’s organizer.
It is unclear if Eriksen or his partner, Sabrina Kvist, who was also invited, will attend Sunday’s final at London’s Wembley Stadium, but at least one of the paramedics said he would go to the game, which might include Denmark — one of the biggest surprises of the tournament.
Eriksen has spent the tournament mostly out of public view since his collapse, appearing in a photo from his hospital bed three days after the incident and in another this week taken after a chance meeting with a young fan.
Eriksen was rushed to the hospital on June 12 after his heart stopped and he needed life-saving treatment on the field during Denmark’s opening game against Finland at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. “He was gone. And we did cardiac resuscitation. And it was cardiac arrest,” Denmark’s team doctor said at the time.
One of the paramedics who helped save Eriksen’s life, Peder Ersgaard, told the Danish magazine Fagbladet FOA that he and other paramedics had been invited, and that he was excited to attend the game.
Denmark faces England in a semifinal on Wednesday at Wembley.
Those countries that succeed in major international tournaments like the Euros are, by and large, those that have most fully embraced the benefits of soccer’s internationalism: the places that have looked beyond their borders for ideas and for inspiration; that have borrowed and adopted best practices, no matter their source; that have learned lessons, regardless of the language in which they are taught.
That is true of all of the semifinalists at Euro 2020, but it is true most of all of England. The Premier League is regularly cited — most often, admittedly, in research conducted on behalf of the Premier League itself — as one of Britain’s greatest cultural exports.
It is also, though, one of Britain’s great importers: of playing and coaching talent, most obviously, but also of ideas and systems and methods. It is the combination of those raw materials that is then concentrated and combined and sold back to the world as a finished product. That is what has allowed the Premier League to establish its dominance. And it is, now, at last, what has brought England’s national team to the cusp of international glory.
Spain has never lost a semifinal at the European Championship. It won the tournament three times after advancing (1964, 2008, 2012) and lost once, to Michel Platini’s France in 1984.
That’s Italy’s record in its last 32 games, an unbeatean streak it will be looking to extend today.
Spain (12) has scored more goals than any team in the tournament, followed by two other semifinalists, Italy and Denmark, who both have 11. England might have the more impressive feat, though: It has yet to allow a goal in five games in the tournament, the only country that can claim that.
Spain’s recent avalanche of goals — five in its final group game, five more in the round of 16 — disguised a problem that had been apparent in its first two games: The team can struggle to score. The Spanish produced only one goal in their first two games, and only one in a quarterfinal against Switzerland despite playing the final 15 minutes of regular time and both extra periods with a man advantage. Spain advanced only after winning a penalty-kick shootout, 3-1. (It failed to convert two of its five attempts but was saved because the Swiss were worse.)
Rory Smith wrote about Spain’s worrisome propensity for goal droughts earlier in the tournament, when he noted that even an excellent passing team needed a couple of pure finishers lest it be “destined to fall short, to get close to the goal but never quite reach it.” Álvaro Morata, who had been given that role but never really grabbed it, has now lost it: He starts on the bench today.
Keep that in mind as you wait to see which Spain will turn up today.
The leaders in the race for the Golden Boot, which is awarded to the tournament’s top scorer, can only watch and wait now. Both players — Patrick Schick of the Czech Republic and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal — scored five goals but their teams have been eliminated.
Could someone still catch them? Possibly. But it will take some work. Three players — England’s Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane and Kasper Dolberg — have three goals, but their teams meet in the semifinals.
“Cristiano Ronaldo / Patrik Schick, 5” is exactly what I want from a Golden Boot award. One genuine great, one outsider who won’t match this again. A 21st century Stoichkov and Salenko. (And it should be shared and not decided on assists, that’s not what the award is for, surely)
— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) July 6, 2021
Two other leading candidates are stuck on two: Spain’s Álvaro Morata and Italy’s Ciro Immobile. Both would love to get one or two more: Morata to get people off his back for not scoring enough, and Immobile to help shed his reputation as a scorer who can only score in Italy.