• REUTERS

  • SHARE

Italy inflicted heartbreak on England to win the European Championship for the first time since 1968 as Gianluigi Donnarumma saved two penalties en route to a 3-2 shootout win after the teams had fought out a 1-1 extra-time draw at a raucous Wembley on Sunday.

The giant 'keeper saved shots from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after Marcus Rashford hit a post, while Federico Bernardeschi, Leonardo Bonucci and Domenico Berardi all scored for the Italians.

"The guys were extraordinary," Italy coach Roberto Mancini told Sky TV. "I don’t have words for them, this is a magnificent group. There were no easy games and this one became very difficult, but then we dominated.

"You need a bit of luck with penalties and I'm a little sorry for England. This team has grown so much, I think it can still improve. We are so happy for all," he added.

Long-serving Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini capped a superb tournament with another display of both the skills and the dark arts of Italian defending.

"I’ve shed some tears," the 36-year-old said. "We deserved it, but at this age it we realize even more what it means to win a trophy like this. Since May we were saying that something magical was in the air, day after day it was more like that."

England striker Harry Kane was devastated to have come so close.

"We got off to the perfect start, maybe dropped a little bit too deep," he told the BBC. "When you score that early it's easy to try to soak up the pressure and try to hold on to that, and that's probably what happened."

"They had a lot of the ball, they had a lot of possession, but to be fair we looked fairly in control, they didn't create too many chances, and then obviously they got their breakthrough."

Kane was quick to lift up Rashford, Sancho and Saka.

"You've got to hold your heads up high," the England captain said. "A fantastic tournament and these things can happen, a penalty shootout, you go through your process and you put it where you want to put it, but anyone can miss a penalty — we win together and we lose together."

Luke Shaw gave England a dream start with a superb goal two minutes in, but Italy, which offered almost nothing in response in the first half, gradually took command as the hosts sat back and evened the score through Bonucci in the 67th minute.

It was the first final to be decided on penalties since Czechoslovakia beat West Germany in 1976 and will be wildly celebrated in Italy, after the Italians lost in the final in 2000 and 2012.

It was heartbreaking for most of the 67,000 at Wembley Stadium, as England came up short in its first major final since winning the World Cup 55 years ago.

It had all started so well when Kane spread the ball wide to Kieran Trippier and he instantly repaid coach Gareth Southgate’s faith in recalling him by sending over a curling deep cross that Shaw met on the half volley to hammer inside the post for his first international goal.

England had taken an early lead in its 2018 World Cup semifinal against Croatia before eventually being outplayed and beaten in extra time, but did not look like it would give up the initiative on home soil, playing on the front foot, though failing to threaten Donnarumma.

England 'keeper Jordan Pickford was similarly untroubled as Federico Chiesa’s crisp shot went just wide and Ciro Immobile’s blocked effort were all Italy had to show for a disjointed half.

England’s well-drilled defense, which had conceded just one goal, via a Danish free kick, in its six previous tournament games, held Italy at arm’s length and Italian frustration was summed up by centerback Bonucci letting fly wildly from 35 meters with the last kick of the half — much to the disgust of his teammates.

Pickford was called into action after 57 minutes, blocking a Lorenzo Insigne shot and then getting down to palm away from Chiesa as Italy began to apply pressure, pinning England back.

It paid dividends when Bonucci pounced from close range after Pickford had turned Andrea Belotti’s header onto a post.

England could have no complaints, having offered almost nothing in attack.

It was a similar story in the first additional 15 minutes, though England did briefly force its way back into the game in the second period, albeit without either side creating anything to reward the crowd for their waves of noise.

So it went to penalties, where England's young guns failed and Italy took the glory.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)