Italy head coach Roberto Mancini insisted the Azzurri are not done yet after silencing their doubters to reach the Euro 2020 final.

Not since 1968 have Italy won the European Championship but they are one victory away from adding to their solitary Euro crown following Tuesday's 4-2 penalty shoot-out triumph over Spain.

After the semi-final finished 1-1 at the end of extra time at Wembley, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved Alvaro Morata's spot-kick as Jorginho stepped up to convert the winning penalty in London.

Amid a national record 33-game unbeaten streak, Italy will face either England or Denmark in Sunday's decider at Wembley.

"We're delighted to have been able to provide this wonderful evening's entertainment to the Italian people and now we still have one game to go and we want to do exactly that if possible," Mancini – who has overseen a stunning transformation after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup – said during a news conference.

"We knew that it was going to be a very tough match because in terms of ball possession, Spain are the best around. They caused us problems, we had to dig in when we needed to. We tried to score and create opportunities when we could it was a very open match and of course there were some issues because we didn't have too much possession.

"However we wanted to make it into the final and we kept trying right until the end and as ever penalties are a lottery but I really want to take my hat off to Spain, they're a wonderful team."

Italy became the second team in the European Championship history after winners France at Euro 2000 to have five different players score two or more goals in a single tournament, following Federico Chiesa's 60th-minute opener, which was cancelled out by Morata with 10 minutes of regulation remaining.

 

The Azzurri's 12 goals at Euro 2020 is their joint-highest tally at a major tournament alongside the 2006, 1982 and 1934 World Cups. On each of those occasions, they left with the trophy.

Italy reached their 10th major final (World Cup and Euros), progressing to the decider of the European Championships for the fourth time (also six World Cup finals) – only Germany (14) have participated in more major finals amongst European nations.

Mancini said: "I must say that we are very happy about all of this, and I must thank the players because they have believed right from day one that we could produce something incredible. We haven't yet done everything we need to, there's still one step to go, and now we have to rest up because this really was very challenging.

"I did say to them before the match that this would be our hardest game of the competition, because when you go into your sixth match in such quick succession with all the travelling we've had to do, it does become very tiring. We certainly struggled with Spain's ball possession and had some issues, but we wanted to make the final."

"I think when you're involved in such an intense World Cup or European Championship, there always comes a game where you will have to dig in to be able to win a match and suffer, because it can't all be very smooth as our progress has been thus far going into the final four," he continued. "So we knew that it was going to be a very tough match, and we knew that it was going to be this game that would be the tough one. That's why I think the players, and everyone that has worked with us over the last three years deserve a lot of credit, because it wasn't easy by any means. Almost no one believed we could do it. And yet we are into the final. We are pleased for Italians everywhere that have been following us over the last few weeks."

Mancini added: "Everyone wants to do this. Occasionally it comes off, sometimes less so. But the players did want to do something different, they wanted to play a brand of football that people enjoyed and thus far they've managed to do exactly that. Difficult tasks are ultimately all the more enjoyable, and we are very happy to have made it into the final but we haven't achieved anything yet. So we still have to wait."

Luis Enrique hailed Spain sensation Pedri, comparing the teenager to Barcelona and La Roja great Andres Iniesta following Tuesday's Euro 2020 semi-final loss to Italy.

Italy booked their place in the final with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory over Spain after the enthralling showdown finished 1-1 at Wembley.

Despite Spain's frustrating outing after substitute Alvaro Morata cancelled out Federico Chiesa's opener, it was a memorable campaign for 18-year-old star Pedri.

Pedri became the first European player in major tournament history (World Cup and Euros) to start as many as six such matches at the age of 18 or below and Luis Enrique lavished the Barcelona midfielder in praise.

"Well I think no 18-year-old has done what Pedri has done in any major competition, whether it's the Euros, the World Cup or the Olympics," Luis Enrique told reporters.

"His performances, the way he reads the game, the way he finds space, his quality, his personality, I've never seen anything like that, not even Andres Iniesta.

"It's absolutely impossible to explain."

Luis Enrique also lauded attacker Dani Olmo, adding: "[He] was absolutely fantastic today, he's a very intelligent player with plenty of quality. He is good between the lines, he picks up the ball well.

"We wanted to starve [Giorgio] Chiellini and [Leonardo] Bonucci of that focal point and I think we did that really well. We wanted to prevent them from doing what they did with [Romelu] Lukaku so it was about creating that four versus three in that area of the pitch. That meant it was going to be difficult for them to take the ball from us.

"We created a lot of chances and I think we were just missing that final step in terms of taking some of our chances. It's very difficult to get the ball off a player like Dani Olmo so I think the players implemented our tactics to perfection. Olmo is a very important player for us because he can play in a range of different situations. He can score goals and he's a very complete footballer."

 

Left out of the starting line-up for the first time this tournament, Morata made an impact from the bench by equalising with 10 minutes remaining in normal time following Chiesa's 60th-minute opener.

Neither side could find a way through in the additional period in what was a repeat of the 2012 final, which Spain won 4-0 for their third European title, though it was Italy who prevailed in Tuesday's enthralling clash.

Morata's penalty was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, paving the way for Jorginho to convert the winning spot-kick, as Italy extended their unbeaten run to 33 games to set up a clash with either England or Denmark in Sunday's final at the same ground. 

Embattled forward Morata has now scored more goals at the European Championships than any other Spain player (six), overtaking Fernando Torres' five goals. In fact, Morata became the first ever Spain player to score for club and country at Wembley.

Morata is also in rarefied company as the second player to scored three or more times in multiple Euros after Cristiano Ronaldo, who has done so on three occasions.

"He has an abductor problem. It really says a lot about his personality that despite that he wanted to take a penalty. He's gone through some tough times during this tournament but he was brilliant," said Luis Enrique.

"He really created a lot of uncertainty in the Italian ranks, he scored of course, so he was excellent. I haven't seen him because he's had to go to doping control. I was able to see Jordi Alba, but I'll go and see him now.

After Spain failed to progress from a semi-final at a major tournament (World Cup and Euros) for the first time in their history, Luis Enrique said: "I'd say that it would be an A- for my players, it would be an A+ had we won. We've been speaking about how we want to play at the Euros for many months.

"The players really bought into that and they did a wonderful job of it. I have no complaints. Really, I just want to congratulate my players. We've shown that we are a team and that we are going to continue doing that. Now it's important for us to rest while the rest of the teams compete and we'll see each other again at future training camps."

Italy will have a shot at their first European title for 53 years after overcoming Spain on penalties in Tuesday's Euro 2020 semi-final.

Four-time world champions Italy were taken to extra-time at Wembley, where Alvaro Morata cancelled out Federico Chiesa's opener to ensure it was 1-1 after 90 minutes.

Neither side could find the breakthrough during the additional half hour and Manuel Locatelli and Dani Olmo failed with the opening penalties for their respective sides.

But Morata turned from hero to villain when Gianluigi Donnarumma saved his tame spot-kick and Jorginho converted to book a final showdown with either England or Denmark.

For Spain, and Morata in particular, this night could have ended up feeling very different indeed.

 

Italy claim the spoils in latest instalment of titanic rivalry

At the expense of their fellow heavyweights, Italy reached the 10th major tournament final and fourth in this competition. Only Germany (14) have competed in more among European nations.

Spain chalked up an unwanted first, having progressed on each of their previous five semi-final appearances at World Cups and European Championships.

Luis Enrique's side went the distance for a third consecutive match after beating Croatia 5-3 in extra time and seeing off Switzerland in a quarter-final shoot-out – equalling the record for the most extra-time periods in a single Euro (Portugal, 2016).

No side have been taken to extra time more often in the history of the competition than Italy (nine).

 

History before heartbreak for Morata

Morata has been a focus of derision for some throughout this tournament and, unfortunately, it looks like there will be plenty more of that to come.

Before kick-off at Wembley it even looked as if Luis Enrique had lost faith.

The Spain boss has been a staunch defender of his main forward in the face of persistent criticism, but opted to go with a fluid front three of Ferran Torres, Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal.

Morata entered the fray in place of Manchester City forward Torres in the 62nd minute and coolly dispatched Spain's equaliser with 10 to play in normal time.

The Juventus man has now scored more goals at the European Championship than any other Spain player with six, overtaking Fernando Torres.

He is also in rarefied company as the second player to scored three or more times in multiple Euros after Cristiano Ronaldo, who has done so on three occasions.

Playing for Chelsea in 2017-18, Morata scored in a 2-0 FA Cup semi-final win over Southampton, meaning on Tuesday he became the first Spanish player to net at Wembley for both club and country.

Morata's is a truly accomplished body of work and one he can hopefully take solace in over the tough days and weeks ahead.

 

Chiesa helps Italy to share the load

Roberto Mancini's freewheeling attack were denied their usual joy by Spain during the opening stages.

Left-back Emerson hit the crossbar in the 45th minute – Italy's first shot of the game and their longest wait for an attempt on goal in the tournament.

Indeed, only versus the Netherlands at Euro 2000 have they had to wait so long in the modern era, with the Oranje keeping the Azzurri at bay until the 48th minute.

As in the last 16 against Austria, Chiesa was again on target at Wembley,

That meant Italy became the second team in the European Championship history after winners France at Euro 2000 to have five different players score two or more goals in a single tournament.

Chiesa joined Locatteli, Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Matteo Pessina on two for the competition.

Italy's 12 goals at Euro 2020 is their joint-highest tally at a major tournament alongside the 2006, 1982 and 1934 World Cups. On each of those occasions, they left with the trophy.

 

Perfection for pass master Pedri

Spain outperformed many pre-tournament expectations and in Pedri, they have a potential superstar of the global game for years to come.

The Barcelona midfielder is the first ever player to start six games in a single Euro or World Cup aged 18 or below.

In normal time, Pedri completed all 56 of his passes, including 37 in the Italy half. He became the second player in Euros history to record 100 per cent accuracy after 90 minutes, although France's Samuel Umtiti (76/76 at Euro 2016) probably had an easier route to his statistics from centre-back.

At the end of extra time, he had completed 65 of 67 passes. Nobody's perfect, eh?

In the 15th minute and then early in extra time, the chant of "Football's coming home" rang out around certain quarters of Wembley.

A handful of English supporters even waved the St George's flag excitedly, these people having sadly come down with a curious case of 'helluva match' fatigue.

The Spanish and Italian fans in London whistled in derision, united in incredulity. Before them a vintage Euro 2020 semi-final was unfolding, but their English brethren were farting out a Lightning Seeds song.

Like the Wimbledon wag who shouts "Come on, Tim" in an Andy Murray match, this was conduct that invited pity. Save it for another day, eh?

Besides, hadn't they read the signs?

An Italy fan strode down Wembley Way before kick-off in a tricolore flag bearing the slogan 'IT'S COMING HOME TO ROME', a giant red cross striking out 'HOME'.

And who would doubt that now?

Italy aren't going home to Rome yet, but when they do, they believe it will be as returning heroes. The Azzurri are through to the European Championship final, vying to land this title for the first time since 1968, a penalty shoot-out victory over La Roja sure to only enhance the sense of invincibility that now characterises Roberto Mancini's team.

That's 33 games unbeaten for Italy now, Jorginho their fifth taker in the penalty shoot-out with the glory, passing the ball into the right corner with an unimaginable degree of calm after Gianluigi Donnarumma saved from, rather inevitably, Alvaro Morata.

 

Andrea Belotti, Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Bernardeschi before him had also beaten Unai Simon, after Manuel Locatelli and Dani Olmo traded early misses.

Italy's players raced to their supporters behind the goal, boss Mancini danced for joy with his coaching staff, and Spain held their heads in dismay.

Luis Enrique's Spanish team, whose tepid start to this tournament must have been some sort of smoke screen, would have been equally deserving winners of a gripping match.

They had 16 shots to Italy's seven, a dominant 70.1 per cent of possession, and their record of four in five penalty shoot-out triumphs in European Championship history seemed to bode well.

Yet that lone defeat came at Wembley, a full 25 years ago when England scuppered Spanish hopes in the quarter-finals. Luis Enrique was on the bench that day, an unused substitute powerless to directly impact the outcome, and history harshly repeated itself.

Italy looked for a while to be going through on the back of a glorious fast-break goal, clinically finished by Federico Chiesa, whose father Enrico played at Euro 96 for the Azzurri.

As the hour approached, Donnarumma clutched a tame Jordi Alba cross and put a plan into action.

Italy's players were crowded around their penalty area, as far as Spain were concerned, Alba and Co having spent the previous minute trying to plot a route through a thick wall of blue shirts.

And then suddenly the Italians weren't there, they were going this way and that, left and right, and the ball was going with them.

Donnarumma ran a few strides and rolled it to Marco Verratti, who dashed from the edge of Italy's penalty box and picked out a pass to Lorenzo Insigne tight to the left flank.

Forward, forward, forza Azzurri. Insigne threaded a near genius ball with the outside of his right foot behind the Spanish defence, and despite Aymeric Laporte preventing Ciro Immobile running through to score, the ball reached Chiesa. Eric Garcia stood off, allowed Chiesa to shift the ball to his right foot, and the winger lashed into the far right corner.

It was a goal that made Italy just the second side in European Championship history to have as many as five different players (Chiesa, Matteo Pessina, Insigne, Immobile and Locatelli) score two or more goals at a single edition of the competition, after winners France in 2000.

 

Mancini in his playing days was one of those footballers whose first yard was in his head, who would see things before others, who made up for a lack of any real pace with an abundance of awereness.

No wonder he looked exhilarated by Chiesa's goal, which came straight out of the quick thinker's playbook.

Mancini's one-time mentor Sven-Goran Eriksson told Stats Perform ahead of this game that Mancini was always a step ahead in his mind.

"He was able to see things way more quickly than any other player, even than me as a coach. And he would see that something could happen," Eriksson said.

"I like seeing the football played by Italy because they attack, they play the ball pushing forward, they don't play like tic-tac, tic-tac. They get the ball, they steal the ball and then go. They lose the ball, they fall back, they defend, aggressive."

This was Italy encapsulated against Spain, with the emphasis on the aggressive in the late stages, a tiring team resorting to what tiring teams sometimes must.

The Azzurri did not have a single shot on target in the first half, the first time that has occurred during the knock-out stage of a major tournament since their loss to France in the Euro 2000 final. They did, however, hit the bar seconds before the break, Emerson from a tight angle.

 

Italy's lead here lasted 20 minutes, Morata stepping off the bench and seemingly setting his tournament onto a positive course, after taking so much early flak in these finals.

Giorgio Chiellini, the 36-year-old captain of Mancini's team, was unable to keep pace with his Juventus team-mate as Morata sprinted past him to score.

The Morata narrative had more to give though, and it came as a surprise surely to nobody when Donnarumma smothered his timid penalty.

Jorginho was up next and Italy were home and hosed. They sat out the last World Cup, humiliated by failure to qualify, but these heavyweights of international football are back.

Mancini threw his arms around Donnarumma and Italy celebrated hard. England or Denmark await them in Sunday's final, also to be played at Wembley.

"Let's go back to Wembley, the dream continues," began Corriere dello Sport's write-up of this occasion.

When we talk about football coming home, and where its heartbeat lies, perhaps this year there's no place like Rome.

Leonardo Bonucci described Italy's Euro 2020 semi-final win against Spain as the "toughest game" of his career and urged his team-mates to complete the job by lifting the trophy.

The Azzurri beat Spain 4-2 on penalties in a gripping contest at Wembley on Tuesday that finished 1-1 at the end of extra time.

Alvaro Morata was introduced from the bench to cancel out Federico Chiesa's brilliant opener 10 minutes from time, but the striker's miss proved crucial in the shoot-out.

Jorginho was left to roll in the winning spot-kick as Italy booked their third final appearance in the competition since last going all the way in 1968.

That remains the four-time world champions' only continental triumph and veteran defender Bonucci is eager to put an end to that 53-year wait against England or Denmark.

"This is the toughest game I have ever played," Bonucci, who equalled Gianluigi Buffon's Italian record of 17 European Championship appearances, told RAI Sport.

"I congratulate Spain for what they showed, but once again this Italy showed heart, determination and the ability to push through difficult moments.

"The victory you suffer for is always the most enjoyable one.

"Now there's one more centimetre to go. Just one more centimetre. It's incredible what we are doing, but we mustn't feel satisfied. 

"We're in the final, it's in five days, and we need the same hunger and spirit of sacrifice to bring this trophy home after many years."

 

Italy will be competing in their 10th major tournament final – only Germany (14) have reached more among European nations – after extending their unbeaten run to 33 matches.

Gianluigi Donnarumma kept out Morata's penalty in the shoot-out to set up Jorginho's match-winning kick and could not hold back the tears at the end of the match.

"It wasn't easy, but with the strength of this group we managed to get there," he told Sky Sport Italia. "It's impossible to describe this feeling.

"I was relaxed in the shoot-out because I knew I could help the team. We gave our all and now we need one final step to make our dream come true."

Spain dominated possession (70 per cent) and had 16 shots to Italy's seven, while also creating the better opportunities both in normal time and extra time.

"They are a very strong side, but this Italy has a huge heart, we never give up and we saw that, because we suffered to the end and we snatched it," Donnarumma added.

"Spain deserve a lot of credit for causing us so many problems."

Chiesa's stunning opener in the English capital was his second goal in three matches for Italy, doubling his tally from his first 28 senior international appearances.

He was named the man of the match and dedicated his award to stricken team-mate Leonardo Spinazzola, who ruptured his Achilles in the quarter-final win against Belgium.

"He would have helped us tonight, but these things can happen in football, we hope we can give him satisfaction in the final," Chiesa told Sky Sport Italia.

"There are a few days to recover now, but we've played every three days this season, so we are ready. We'll have enough time to recover.

"As I've always said, I think about improving and reaping the rewards of my work."

Italy are only the second European nation to win each of their first six games at a major tournament after the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup.

Football can be cruel; we know that. But it seems especially mean to Alvaro Morata.

The man who was booed by his own fans, who dragged Spain through against Croatia, was finally dropped for the Euro 2020 semi-final against Italy. A purely tactical choice, but one perhaps at odds with Luis Enrique's hot-blooded defiance towards the naysayers who wanted Morata out of the team.

How amazing it was to see Morata then come off the bench and equalise with 10 minutes to go, bellow a quick "Vamos!" into the camera and get the ball back to the centre-circle. And how inevitable it felt when his tame penalty was saved, as Spain's draining campaign ended at last in another shoot-out.

Morata should not be blamed, though. Rather, Spain's failings in attack have been prevalent throughout. That might sound strange since, before the semi-finals, they were the top-scoring side in the tournament with 12, and they ended it with 13, their best goals return at a single European Championship.

But they should have had more, and not just at Wembley Stadium. They came into the contest with nine scored (excluding penalties and own goals) from 15.6 expected goals. That difference of -3.56 was the worst of any side at these finals. By the end of the semi-final, their tally stood at 10 from an xG of 17.1.

 

They had been looking promising, too. Spain may not have enthralled at these finals – just ask Rafael "they're horrible to watch" van der Vaart – but they mastered that critical art of getting better as the tournament went on.

From the drudgery of two group-stage draws – where they averaged a shot on target for 458 passes against Sweden and then let Poland have a point – La Roja sharpened up. They dismantled Slovakia in the crucial third game and put Croatia to the sword in the last 16 (even if they tried hard to throw it away). In the quarter-final against Switzerland, they fired in 28 shots across 120 minutes and only Yann Sommer's brilliance forced the contest to go to penalties.

In a damp, cool evening in London, against many observers' favourites for the trophy, Spain looked fully warmed up. The passing from midfield was crisp and purposeful; the introduction of Dani Olmo as the false nine left Italy's central trio outnumbered and scrambling after white shirts. Olmo could have scored, and Mikel Oyarzabal really should have, scuffing a shot within reach of Gianluigi Donnarumma. Italy took 45 minutes to attempt a shot, Emerson Palmieri skimming the crossbar from a tight angle.

Even after Federico Chiesa put the Azzurri ahead with an excellent finish after an hour, there was little panic within the Spain ranks. Rather, there was an acceptance, an expectation that chances would come, as they have all tournament. They duly did, Oyarzabal missing the ball when a simple headed finish presented itself, and Olmo fizzing a shot wide. Ultimately, it was Morata who went from scrutinised starter to super-sub, turning in midfield, exchanging passes with Olmo and leaving Donnarumma dumbfounded with a clinical finish.

 

Perhaps inevitably, though, it was on Spain's midfielders that everything rested. The game seemed to ebb and flow depending on which of them had the ball at any given moment. The three were like brothers from the same footballing lineage: teenager Pedri, experienced Koke, veteran Busquets. They certainly kept the ball like a family secret. Pedri completed all 56 of his passes before extra time; Busquets only misplaced four of his throughout. You'd be forgiven for thinking Koke played for Barcelona, such was his understanding with the Catalan duo.

Yet midfield control wasn't enough. At Euro 2020, it has never been enough for them. It would be unfair to suggest Italy were playing for penalties but, as soon as they came, you felt there was only one winner. Giorgio Chiellini laughed, jostled and bear-hugged Jordi Alba at the pre-shoot-out coin toss. He seemed to know. Morata did, too, the Juventus striker nodding ruefully after Donnarumma guessed right to save his spot-kick. And everyone in Wembley and around the world knew Jorginho would bury the winner.

Few had any clear idea about what Spain would achieve at these finals. Luis Enrique proved he can cultivate a strong-minded squad and navigate the rigours of a tournament; even his infamously poor relationship with the national press should not detract from a positive few weeks. They look a realistic bet for at least the latter stages of the World Cup next year.

But those concerns in attack will only grow if they cannot become a more ruthless side between now and November 2022. Like their immaculate midfield, Spain are building, patiently, expertly, but without knowing quite where it will lead.

Spain's penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy will live long in the memory of Alvaro Morata for all the wrong reasons after his crucial failure from the spot, but La Roja wouldn't have even got to extra-time without the maligned striker's historic goal.

Roberto Mancini's Azzurri appeared to be heading to the final thanks to Federico Chiesa's gorgeous opener, but Morata – a second-half substitute – levelled in the 80th minute to force extra-time.

Morata had been dropped from the starting XI after being withdrawn early in the second half of the quarter-final against Switzerland.

Although the forward, on loan at Juventus from Atletico Madrid, had been a regular source of frustration in Euro 2020, with his six Opta-defined big chances missed being more than any other player at the tournament, that decision still came as something as a surprise given Luis Enrique's staunch backing of him.

The coach was seemingly banking on the dynamism of Dani Olmo, Ferran Torres and Mikel Oyarzabal causing issues for Italy's aging centre-back pairing, but with Spain chasing the game he turned to the much-maligned striker.

Morata vindicated his introduction, with his fine goal taking him to three for Euro 2020 and six in all European Championship tournaments, setting a new record for La Roja.

His confident left-footed finish moves Morata ahead of Fernando Torres in that regard, while it also made him only the second player in Euros history to score three or more in multiple editions of the competition after Cristiano Ronaldo.

But Morata saw his spot-kick saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma in the shoot-out, the Italy goalkeeper diving to his left to easily keep the feeble attempt at bay. Jorginho coolly swept home his effort a few moments later to send the Azzurri into the final.

 

Alvaro Morata went from hero to zero at Wembley after rescuing extra time for Spain before missing a penalty in the shoot-out as Italy booked their place in the Euro 2020 final.

The Juventus loanee was left out of Spain's starting line-up for the first time this tournament but made an impact from the bench by cancelling out Federico Chiesa's superb curled opener 10 minutes from time as the game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes.

Neither side could find a way through in the additional period in what was a repeat of the 2012 final, which Spain won 4-0 for their third European title, though it was Italy who prevailed in Tuesday's enthralling clash.

Morata's penalty was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, paving the way for Jorginho to convert the winning spot-kick in a 4-2 shoot-out triumph, as Italy extended their unbeaten run to 33 games to set up a clash with either England or Denmark in Sunday's final at the same ground. 

Gareth Southgate challenged his England players to keep making history ahead of their Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark.

Southgate's men are aiming to win a first major honour for 55 years but have consistently breached new ground of late.

The last-16 win over Germany was the first time they had beaten a country with a world title to their name in a knockout fixture since the 1966 World Cup final.

A 4-0 quarter-final thrashing of Ukraine made it consecutive semi-finals on the back of the run Southgate masterminded at Russia 2018 – the first time England have accomplished that since going close in the 1968 European Championship.

Nevertheless, that five-and-a-half-decade drought is the one statistic that continues to loom, but one from which the manager suggested his young and gifted squad can feel liberated by.

"We don't have as good a football history as we like to believe sometimes," he told a pre-match news conference. "These players are making massive strides."

"We've broken down barriers in this tournament and we have another opportunity to do that tomorrow.

"We have never been to a European Championship final so we can be the first England team to do that which is really exciting."

There will be 60,000 fans at Wembley on Wednesday – an increased capacity on previous matches in London at Euro 2020.

The win against Germany was celebrated with a lap of honour but Southgate has witnessed a more muted reception to progress among his players when compared to their Russian adventure.

 

"It definitely feels different this time," he said. "The World Cup was a very emotional journey for us. We hadn't won a knockout game for 12 years or something like that.

"The night with Colombia where we won that knockout game, won a penalty shoot-out. It was highly emotional.

"Then the quarter-final with Sweden, again, the first time in a semi-final for [22] years.

"It has felt different this time in that we expected ourselves to get to this point. We've had that internal aim.

"We've not been our celebrating the victories in the same way. We've moved on to the next challenge quickly and it was the same in Rome. Our focus was very quickly on the game against Denmark."

Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand suggested the pressure of expectation from the home crowd could get to England, but Southgate was again keen to emphasise a sense of opportunity.

"We've had expectation during the whole tournament and I think we have dealt with that really well, in the opening game [against Croatia] for example, and in the game with Germany," he added.

"But we've never been to a final so the pressure is what you choose it to be really. I think it is a motivating thing, it is a challenge for us.

"If we were a country that had won five titles and had to match what had gone before I might feel differently – but we are not."

Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is hoping to turnaround a wretched individual record against England captain Harry Kane in Wednesday's Euro 2020 semi-final.

Kane has put a slow start to the tournament behind him during the knockout stages, following his game-sealing header in the 2-0 last-16 win over Germany with a brace in last weekend's 4-0 quarter-final demolition of Ukraine in Rome.

Leicester City keeper Schmeichel knows all about Kane's lethal qualities from their duels in the Premier League.

Indeed, Kane's 14 goals past Schmeichel are more than he has managed against any other goalkeeper across all competitions.

One of those was in a 4-2 win for Spurs at the King Power Stadium on the final day of the Premier League season that denied Leicester a Champions League place.

On the other hand, Schmeichel went unbeaten by Kane or any other England player when Denmark drew 0-0 at home with the Three Lions in last season's Nations League before winning 1-0 at Wembley, where their semi-final will also take place.

"He's a world class striker, someone who can always guarantee you a lot of goals during the season," Schmeichel told a pre-match news conference.

"He's a very dedicated and professional player. He knows where to position himself, he's very instinctive.

"I would say that he is among the top three or top five strikers in the world."

 

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who shares a club dressing room with Kane, ranks him even more highly.

However, the Denmark midfielder insists he will have no special tips for his defensive colleagues.

"I don't need to introduce Harry Kane for anyone," he said.

"Behind closed doors he is very professional. He's good at what he does, he's very dedicated.

"He's just an incredible football player. So, for me, Harry is the best player in that position.

"It is an honour to play with him every day but I'm sure that, with the defence we have, it's going to be tough for him."

 

Denmark head coach Kasper Hjulmand does not see his team as underdogs and hopes the pressure of having 60,000 expectant home supporters can work against England.

"There are some psychological factors in the game," he said. "They have a lot of supporters, but we also have to remember that they have a lot of pressure and expectations.

"I don't think it is going to be so easy for them. We believe that we can take advantage of the pressure that England feel."

The prize for England would be a first major final appearance since their 1966 World Cup triumph, with the prospect prompting plenty of excitement across the country.

The hopeful refrain of "It's coming home" from the Euro 96 song 'Three Lions' has become something of a rallying call, although Schmeichel – whose father Peter helped Denmark to a shock success at Euro 92 – could not resist poking a little fun at his adopted country's expense.

"Has it ever been home?" he chuckled.

"I don't know, have you ever won it? Was [1966] not the World Cup?"

Schmeichel added: "To be honest, I haven't given any thought to what it would mean to stop England, rather than what it would do for Denmark – the joy it would bring to a country of five million people, competing with the nations we're competing with.

"I've not really thought much about England's feelings on this."

Alvaro Morata has been dropped to the bench for Spain's Euro 2020 semi-final against Italy at Wembley.

The 28-year-old Juventus striker had started all five of Spain's matches at the tournament, scoring twice – including a vital extra-time strike in the dramatic 5-3 win over Croatia in the round of 16.

But Morata has also endured a tough time in front of goal, missing a penalty during the 5-0 rout of Slovakia.

Of his 16 non-penalty attempts in the tournament, seven have been on target and he is under-performing an expected goals (xG) tally of 3.16, as per Opta.

Luis Enrique has staunchly defended the former Atletico and Real Madrid player but substituted him after 54 minutes of the quarter-final against Switzerland.

Gerard Moreno was his replacement in St Petersburg but the Villareal striker went on to endure a similarly wasteful outing and Luis Enrique has opted for a mobile front three without a specialist centre-forward, with Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal starting alongside Ferran Torres.

That means Pablo Sarabia misses out, alongside Gerard's club team-mate Pau Torres, who is replaced at centre-back by Eric Garcia.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini makes the one expected change to the XI that beat Belgium, with Chelsea left-back Emerson coming in for Leonardo Spinazzola, whose magnificent tournament was cut short by a ruptured Achilles.

This is the fourth consecutive European Championship meeting between Italy and Spain, with the latter winning a quarter-final penalty shoot-out in 2008 before swaggering to a dominant 4-0 final win at Euro 2012.

Italy, under Antonio Conte, gained a measure of revenge with a 2-0 last-16 triumph in Paris at Euro 2016.

England will battle the weight of expectation and a poor recent record against Denmark in their Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday.

The Three Lions enjoyed the most one-sided of all the quarter-finals, defeating Ukraine 4-0 in Rome as they stretched their run at this tournament to five games without conceding a goal.

However, history has not been kind to England at this stage of the competition. They lost their only previous semi-finals – against Yugoslavia in 1968 and Germany in 1996, when now manager Gareth Southgate missed the crucial kick in the shoot-out – and the omens are not necessarily positive given they have won only one of the previous six competitive meetings with Denmark.

Indeed, the only previous occasion England won a semi-final was in the 1966 World Cup on home soil, when they defeated Eusebio's Portugal 2-1.

"We've knocked off so many hoodoos or perceived barriers already and I feel like this group of players will feel this is just the next challenge," said Southgate, who led England to the final four at the World Cup three years ago only to be defeated by Croatia.

"I guess the interesting part for us is we won't feel totally satisfied if it's just a semi-final for us, whereas maybe three years ago, although there was massive disappointment after the semi-final, there was a feeling we'd come a long way.

"Now we've replicated what we did there, but that won't be enough to fulfil the group. That's a positive sign."

 

Kasper Hjulmand's Denmark have defied the odds to reach this stage after losing their first two games while dealing with the hospitalisation of Christian Eriksen, who collapsed during their opening defeat to Finland. Their 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in the previous round secured their last-four spot for the first time since they won the tournament back in 1992.

England defender Harry Maguire is fully prepared for a difficult game in London against a side who have scored 11 times at these finals, a tally bettered only by Spain (12) among the semi-finalists.

"Their journey has been really inspiring and all our thoughts have always been with Christian and his recovery," he said.

"They're a good team though and they've proved that over the last few years, they'll be the highest-ranked team we've faced so far at the competition so we know they're strong."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England – Harry Maguire

Maguire's last game against Denmark lasted just 31 minutes as he was sent off for two bookings in a 1-0 loss in October 2020.

It was a difficult time for the Manchester United captain, who had recently gone through legal proceedings in Greece and had endured a wretched start to the Premier League season that included a 6-1 home defeat to Tottenham.

Maguire is now a player transformed. He has looked imperious since returning from an ankle injury, helping to shut down Germany and Ukraine's attack in the knockouts and getting on the scoresheet in that quarter-final win.

Denmark – Joakim Maehle

Atalanta wing-back Joakim Maehle has been arguably not only Denmark's standout star at the Euros but perhaps the best player of the entire tournament.

Directly involved in three of his side's 11 goals, Maehle assisted Kasper Dolberg's crucial second against the Czech Republic with a quite wonderful trivela cross from the left. He should really have scored himself in the second half, too.

England's defence has been resolute throughout, but Maehle might present a more unorthodox test as an energetic left wing-back with a mean right foot. His battle with Kyle Walker could be key.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the third meeting between England and Denmark in a major tournament. England won 3-0 in the second round of the 2002 World Cup, after a goalless draw in the group stages of Euro 1992 – a competition that Denmark went on to win.

- All seven meetings between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium have finished 1-0, with England winning five to Denmark's two. Denmark have won their past two competitive games against England at the stadium (1983 and 2020), with no side ever winning three consecutive competitive games against the Three Lions at Wembley.

- Denmark have had seven different goalscorers at Euro 2020 – excluding own goals, only Germany in 2012 (8) have had more different players score in a single edition of the European Championship.

- England have kept a clean sheet in all five of their games at Euro 2020 – no team has ever kept six clean sheets in a single edition of the European Championship or World Cup before.

- Harry Kane has been involved in 27 goals in his past 26 games for England (18 scored, nine assisted). He has nine goals at major tournaments (six at the World Cup, three at the Euros), with only Gary Lineker netting more such goals for England (10).

Alvaro Morata may not have been prolific in terms of goals at Euro 2020 but his selfless work for the team is vital for Spain, according to Gaizka Mendieta.

Striker Morata has scored twice to help Luis Enrique's side reach the semi-finals of the tournament, though his failure to capitalise on the opportunities that have come his way has led to criticism.

Indeed, the 28-year-old has been booed by his own fans both before and during the European Championship, while his family have been targeted for abuse too.

Yet former Spain international Mendieta feels Morata's team-mates appreciate all he does for the cause, even if his finishing has let him down at times. From 15 attempts, he has a shot conversion rate of 13.33 per cent.

An expected goals total of 3.95 highlights a shortcoming for the former Chelsea and Real Madrid player in front of goal, yet he has started every game ahead of the last-four clash with Italy at Wembley on Tuesday.

Gerard Moreno – an alternative option to lead the line in place of Morata – has yet to score at the European Championship from 15 shots, while Dani Olmo has been unsuccessful with all of his 16 attempts. The problem for La Roja in general has been taking chances, rather than creating them.

"I think people are being very critical," Mendieta told Stats Perform. "I believe Morata is a player who gives a lot to the team in terms of work, mobility, keeping the ball and creating spaces for midfielders and wingers like Olmo, [Ferran] Torres or even Moreno.

"I think he is doing a great job and that's one of the main reasons he is in the team. Of course, he is a striker and you expect goals from him and unfortunately it is where he has been unlucky.

"He hasn't finished the chances he had and that's what has made noise.

"Beyond this, I think the team is grateful for his work. He is the first one realising he should improve scoring and creating chances and I am sure he is working on it.

"Those critics are understandable, but his efforts are respected."

 

Luis Enrique has been unequivocal in his support of Morata, describing the abuse directed at the player and his family as a "serious crime" as he called for the authorities to take action.

The Spain boss has steered the team through choppy waters at Euro 2020. Having opened the campaign with two dour draws, the 2012 winners found their scoring touch in a 5-0 thrashing of Slovakia to qualify behind Sweden from Group E.

A wild last-16 clash with Croatia eventually went Spain's way after extra time, while a penalty shoot-out was required to see off Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

Mendieta, however, feels Luis Enrique has created an environment where his players are able to respond to any match situation, good or bad.

"He gives value to the player in order to make him part of the plan," he said of the former Barcelona head coach.

"I think that is reflected on the pitch; a common idea but at the same time it is the player who needs to find solutions. The coach cannot do that for them on the pitch.

"That's why I think the Spain team had a great reaction in tough times in some games. Especially in the group stage, in the last game. They are a team with a great character, just like Luis Enrique himself."

Euro 2020 is disappearing before our eyes, with the delayed tournament somehow already at the business end as we head into the final three matches.

It's been a thrill ride since the very beginning. From Italy making a sparkling start and Denmark rallying after Christian Eriksen's medical emergency, to France falling at the last 16 and England reaching the semi-finals of a second successive major tournament.

Italy, England, Spain and Denmark are all that's left as Euro 2020 enters its final week, and at this point it seems particularly tricky to call, particularly between first three.

But, given how integral statistics are to football these days, data can potentially give you edge when attempting to predict certain outcomes, and this is where Stats Perform's Artificial Intelligence team comes in as they've used Opta's extensive data reserves to quantify each semi-finalist's chances of winning tournament.

Every match has been run through the Stats Perform Euros Prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances and also takes into consideration the strength of each side's opponents.

The games are then simulated 40,000 times and analysed, providing the AI team with a percentage for each nation, showing the probability of them ultimately lifting the trophy at Wembley on July 11.

Without any further ado, let's take a look at the results…

Denmark (8.8 per cent chance of winning Euro 2020)

The fact Denmark even got out of their group was an achievement in itself as they became the first team to ever reach the knockout phase having lost their opening two matches. Yet, here we are.

The Danes are into the last four for the first time since winning the competition in 1992 and have really hit their stride since their two early defeats, with only Spain (12) outscoring Kasper Hjulmands' men until this point (11) – that haul is the most they've ever managed at a major tournament.

 

Denmark have projected a real sense of unity since Eriksen collapsed against Finland, and it's hard to believe they will fear anyone at this point.

Nevertheless, England should represent trickier opposition than the likes of Wales and the Czech Republic, which is perhaps reflected by the fact their 8.8 per cent chance of winning the title is the lowest of the four remaining teams.

But if standout performers such as Joakim Maehle, Simon Kjaer and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg continue to deliver the goods, who's to say they cannot emulate the 1992 vintage?

 

Spain (23.1 per cent)

Luis Enrique's Spain have been a fascinating watch at Euro 2020, partly because they somehow manage to flitter between exceptional and unrefined. Their erratic nature has become one of the sideshows of the tournament.

For example, only the Netherlands (53) have forced more high turnovers than Spain, while La Roja are the sole side to break the 100 barrier in terms of sequences of 10 or more passes (147). They only allow their opponents 8.3 passes on average in the defensive third before they initiate a defensive action, indicating they are the most intense pressers at the tournament, and their haul of 12 goals is more than anyone else.

 

Yet, their xGA (expected goals against) of 6.8 is comfortably the worst of the four teams left, and their xG underperformance of 3.6 is the biggest of all 24 teams. In short, these points suggest that not only have Spain been lucky to only concede five times, they are also the most wasteful team at Euro 2020.

 

That's obviously not helped by the fact Gerard Moreno (no goals from 3.3 xG) and Alvaro Morata (two goals from 3.95 xG) are among the three players with the worst xG underperformance records in the competition.

However, they've got this far and have still crafted plenty of goal-scoring opportunities, with their record of 25 big chances a tournament-high. If the penny drops with Spain's forwards and they start to convert in line with their xG, they could have real joy.

 

England (29.1 per cent)

It would be fair to say England's performances in the group stage, although not alarming, certainly didn't inspire a huge amount of confidence as they scored just two goals. But in the two games since, they have netted six times and attracted significant acclaim.

The fact they don't necessarily stand out in many specific team metrics (perhaps bar 10+ passing sequences – 98, second to Spain) is arguably partly down to how flexible Gareth Southgate's team have been in their approach to specific games. For example, their passes per defensive action (PPDA) dropped from 13.7 against Scotland to 25.9 against Germany, suggesting they were concerned about the German midfield playing through their press and instead sat back more in order to cut off passing routes.

Of course, adapting to your opponents is hardly revolutionary, most teams do it to a certain extent, but in a tournament where Spain and Italy have almost religiously stuck to principals and formations that govern their setups, England have chopped and changed.

 

It's clearly worked as well given the fact the Three Lions have equalled a major-tournament record of five successive clean sheets, while their 2.95 xGA (with no goals conceded) leads the way at Euro 2020.

With their defence seemingly watertight and Harry Kane finding some confidence with three goals in two games, England look in great shape. If our prediction model took into consideration that all of the remaining games are to be at Wembley, they'd likely be a bit closer to top spot.

 

Italy (38.9 per cent)

It seems like a long time ago now that Italy came into Euro 2020 as – some claimed at the time – unknown quantities. The common conception was that their 27-match unbeaten run coming into the tournament was misleading because most of the games were said to have been against sub-optimal opposition.

Well, they are now at 32 games unbeaten having won or drawn all of their five matches to this point at Euro 2020, setting a new national record in the process.

But, more than that, they've been utterly joyful to watch. They are relentless in attack, as highlighted by their tournament-leading shot (11) and goal-ending high turnovers (three), but also impressive at the back having only conceded one non-penalty goal.

 

Built around a solid core of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella that expertly blends craft and guile arguably unlike any team at Euro 2020, Roberto Mancini's turned Italy into a side that's not only been generally fun to watch, but also effective.

Spain represent a completely different challenge to any other side Italy have faced thus far, yet Luis Enrique's men have afforded their opponents plenty of chances. The Azzurri have been consistent throughout in attack, as demonstrated by their 11 goals from 10.3 xG. Without the one own goal in their favour, it would be 10 from 10.3 xG.

 

Italy have shown no major weaknesses en route to the semi-finals, and as such our model suggests it is they who have the greatest chance of success this week.

Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci leapt to the defence of Juventus team-mate and embattled Spain forward Alvaro Morata ahead of their Euro 2020 semi-final showdown.

Spain's Morata has been on the wrong end of criticism for his performances at Euro 2020, while he reportedly received death threats amid online abuse directed at his family.

Team-mates at club level for Juve in Serie A, Bonucci and Morata will face-off when Italy play Spain in Tuesday's Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley and the former heaped praise on the 28-year-old Spaniard.

"I was really struck by what happened to him and what we all have to go through," Bonucci said of the death threats directed at Morata. "I've also had to go through what he has gone through, and I know what it's like to read certain things and feel certain things as well.

"I've always been right behind him, he's always had my support. Alvaro is a wonderful person, he is a great guy, a wonderful father, and a terrific footballer.

"He's a complete striker, because he can run into space high up the pitch, makes late runs, holds the ball up well. He's one of the best strikers in world football, thankfully at club football he is a team-mate of mine over the course of the season.

"We need to make sure we are switched on tomorrow [Tuesday], not only to keep an eye on Morata but the team as a whole."

Spain are the highest scoring team at Euro 2020, with 12 goals from five games, including two strikes via Morata.

Bonucci was pressed on comparisons between Morata and Inter star Romelu Lukaku, whom Italy faced in the quarter-finals with Belgium.

"They are two top strikers," the 34-year-old Bonucci said. "When you get to this level, this stage of the competition, all the countries you come up against and all of the strikers you face are terrific.

"Alvaro has some very specific qualities that are different attributes to what Lukaku is all about. We need to be very switched on in terms of fine margins and small details, to make sure we really can come away with a big result."

Italy – riding a national record 32-game unbeaten streak – have only beaten Spain twice in their past 14 meetings in all competitions (D7 L5), a 2-1 friendly win in 2011 and, most recently, a 2-0 victory at Euro 2016 in the last 16, with goals from Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle.

The Azzurri are featuring in their 12th semi-final at a major tournament (Euros and World Cup), with only Germany (20) appearing at the final-four stage more often among all European sides.

Italy have progressed from nine of the previous 11 semi-final ties, including each of the past four – most recently in this competition in 2012 when they eventually lost in the final to Spain (4-0).

Roberto Mancini's Italy have won all five of their matches at Euro 2020, the only side of the remaining final four with a 100 per cent record to date. Only at the World Cup (1990) have they won more games at a single major tournament (six), while the only European team to win each of their first six games at a major tournament was the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup, when they suffered defeat to Spain in the final in South Africa.

But Bonucci played down the favourites tag, telling reporters: "I think when its Italy against Spain in a European Championship semi-final, there's no such thing as a favourite. Yes, we have had a flawless run so far, but even though Spain have faced some issues, that doesn't matter, we need to put it to one side.

"We really need to focus on what we need to do, where we can improve. We simply need to be motivated by the fact we're coming up against such a great, prestigious side in a wonderful arena such as Wembley, in the knowledge we can make it to the final in a few days' time."

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