So there we have it. Italy are the new European champions after beating England on penalties after 120 minutes could only muster two shared goals.
Manchester United’s English contingent made the final. How sweet it was to see the likes of Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw playing key roles as well.
Luke Shaw’s early goal stunned Italy but brought the English into a collective euphoria not felt in more than half a century. England, one up, via Luke Shaw. Shaw’s whole tournament, but to be the man to score England’s opener must have been a special feeling.
However, almost in typical England fashion, they can’t seem to hold on to a good thing. Shades of the World Cup semi-final vs Croatia England were stunned by an Italian reply in the second half. The most frustrating thing for any football fan was the mere fact that they weren’t undone by any special play. It was a simple set-piece, a couple of ricochets, and a goal.
The truth is Italy deserved it, again, not because of any outstanding patterns of play but England failed to capitalise on the early lead. The three lions seemed stuck in a limbo between attacking and parking the bus to protect the lead. One of each extreme would have ultimately earned England European glory.
It wasn’t meant to be, even after extra time, England couldn’t regain control of the game. Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were brought on with penalties in mind at the death of extra time. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing but bringing them on earlier in the tie would have bared great fruits. Maybe not in normal or extra time, but the pair would’ve have felt warmer into proceedings and what would follow in the shootout maybe wouldn’t have occurred.
The shootout came and Harry Kane took the first, slotting it away in response Dominico Berardi’s first. Jordan Pickford saved Italy’s second and after United skipper scored what can best be described as a clearance into the net. England were on top.
Leonardo Bonucci, scorer of Italy’s equaliser in normal time, equalised on penalties. Marcus Rashford stepped up next, the usual ice cold demeanor on the penalty spot was there. He sent Donnarumma the wrong way, no easy feat. But in doing so took his eye off the ball and hit the opposite post. His face a picture of anguish.
Bernadeschi scored to put the Italians ahead in the shootout, Sancho stepped up only for his effort to be saved by the lofty Italian between the sticks. Jorginho, the man who’s goal sent Italy in the final with a cheeky pass into the net, was next. A heart in mouth moment for the English. Jorginho’s penalty was all saved by Pickford. Pickford had kept England’s hopes alive. Bukayo Saka, 19-years-old, the weight of the nation’s gaze on his back. Saka missed, handing the trophy to the Italians. Well deserved.
Anyone with an ounce of awareness as to what the current state of football is like knew as the the three black players missed. Racism would soon follow. It’s become a standard, it just happens and we just know it. The answer is for the social media platforms to do more to censor and hold the individuals accountable. The racism that ensued brought a sour end to wonderful tournament.