Roberto Mancini believes he and Gianluca Vialli came 'full circle' at Wembley Stadium, making amends for Sampdoria's European Cup final defeat against Barcelona by succeeding with Italy against England in the Euro 2020 final.

Mancini guided his country to their first European Championship triumph since 1968 with a shoot-out victory over Gareth Southgate's men, courtesy of Gianluigi Donnarumma's penalty-saving heroics.

Tasked with rebuilding after failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, Mancini led his side to a 34-game unbeaten run that culminated in the Euro 2020 success.

After the failure of 2018, the first year in which the Azzurri had failed to reach a World Cup since 1958, Mancini told SPORT1 "Italy was down".

"You [Italy] immediately felt that everyone wanted reparations and were ready to work their a***s for the country", the former Manchester City head coach added.

But Italy's title did not just represent success for this current crop of players, it also provided comfort for Mancini and the Azzurri's team delegation chief Vialli, who came up short with Sampdoria against Barcelona at Wembley in 1992.

"I still remember that game [the 1992 European Cup final] very well. We shouldn't have lost it, it wasn't deserved," said Mancini.

"But now the circle has come full. 30 years later. Madness! I'm also happy because this trophy also belongs to the Sampdoria fans to a certain extent. Unfortunately, they had to accept the bitter defeat at the time. Now the wounds are being healed."

Italy's impressive defence propelled them to their success as they conceded just four goals at Euro 2020, with England (two), Belgium and Finland (three each), the only teams able to boast better defensive records.

Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, whose 12 interceptions topped the defensive rankings alongside Ukraine's Mykola Matvienko, marshalled the backline in front of shoot-out hero Donnarumma and Mancini feels the pair deserve significant credit.

"Giorgio [Chiellini] and Leo [Bonucci], of course, have a very large part in our wonderful success. They deserve it so much because they represent 20 years of Italian football history," he explained.

The praise of Chiellini and Bonucci aside, Mancini batted off questions surrounding immortality and history to conclude: "This title is for all the Italians in our country.

"But it is also a gift to all Italians abroad. There is boundless joy right now."

Leonardo Bonucci claimed the booing of the Italian national anthem by England fans helped to inspire the Azzurri to Euro 2020 glory.

Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties in Sunday's final at Wembley after the match had finished 1-1 following extra time.

Bonucci, who equalised to cancel out Luke Shaw's opener – the quickest goal ever scored in a European Championship final – and then converted his spot-kick in the shoot-out, was a rock at the heart of Italy's defence throughout the tournament.

No defender made more interceptions at Euro 2020 than Bonucci, whose tally of 12 tied him with Ukraine's Mykola Matvienko.

Several incidents occurred outside the ground on Sunday, with groups of supporters without tickets managing to force entry into Wembley.

With an already tense atmosphere perhaps not aided by these scenes, boos rang around the stadium during the Italian anthem.

Bonucci, though, said the jeers only helped lift Roberto Mancini's team and, in particular, his defensive partner Giorgio Chiellini.

"They whistled the anthem. They thought they had brought it home," Bonucci told Radio RAI 1.

"This, to me and the old man there [Chiellini] did nothing but increase our motivation. It was a personal satisfaction for me and Giorgio, who have not always been getting the praise we deserved."

 

Italy paraded the trophy in an open-top bus tour on Monday and Bonucci dedicated the win to those who had lost loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic, with Italy one of the worst-hit nations in Europe.

He also paid tribute to Azzurri legend Paolo Rossi, who died from lung cancer in December last year.

"The dedication goes to those who left us in this year and a half," he added.

"Among so many champions, as done for Davide Astori, I want to make a special dedication to Paolo Rossi, a great man.

"The cup is for him and the Italians who have suffered."

Gianluigi Donnarumma ultimately proved Italy's hero in London, as he kept out Bukayo Saka's penalty to seal victory.

Had the England youngster scored, the shoot-out would have gone to sudden death, with Jordan Pickford having previously denied Jorginho.

However, the midfielder joked that his miss was a deliberate ploy to enable Donnarumma – named UEFA's Player of the Tournament – would get the glory.

"It was all planned. I knew that Donnarumma would have saved it," Jorginho quipped in an interview with SportTV. 

"I always give everything I have for the team, but unfortunately, sometimes it's not enough.

"I ended up missing the penalty, and in that moment the world collapsed around me, because I wanted to hand Italy the win. Luckily, we have this phenomenon in goal that saved me."

The 719 minutes racked up by Donnarumma was the most by any player at Euro 2020; he missed only the closing stages of Italy's win against Wales in the group stage and also helped the Azzurri to a penalty shoot-out win over Spain in the semi-finals.

In fact, of the five shoot-outs he has been involved in so far in his career for club and country, Donnarumma – who is set to join Paris Saint-Germain – has always finished on the winning side.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the biggest omission as UEFA named the Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament.

Five players from competition winners Italy made the best XI announced on Tuesday, though there was no place for Golden Boot winner Ronaldo.

The Portugal forward scored five times, as did the Czech Republic's Patrik Schick, but Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku got the nod in a front three with Federico Chiesa and Raheem Sterling.

Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire were the other England representatives in the team.

But there was no place for fellow defender Luke Shaw, who scored in the final to cap a fine tournament, or his Manchester United team-mate Paul Pogba, one of the tournament's stars before France's elimination in the last 16.

Player of the tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma was joined by Italy quartet Leonardo Bonucci, Leonardo Spinazzola, Jorginho and Chiesa.

However, midfield star Marco Verratti missed out despite some influential performances in the knockout stages.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Pedri were the sole representatives for Denmark and Spain respectively, both teams having gone out in the semi-finals.

Lukaku also edged out Harry Kane, Karim Benzema and Emil Forsberg, who all ended up with the same goal tally (four) as the Inter forward.

 

The best players to miss out

Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer enjoyed an incredible tournament, saving a Kylian Mbappe penalty in his side's shoot-out win against France in the last 16.

He made a tournament-high 21 saves in total, 10 of those coming in the eventual defeat to Spain on penalties in the quarter-finals.

Denzel Dumfries saw his reputation enhanced during Euro 2020, even if the Netherlands were sent packing by the Czech Republic at the last-16 stage.

He became just the second ever Netherlands player, after Ruud van Nistelrooy, to score in his first two European Championship appearances, while also helping his side to a couple of clean sheets in his four outings.

Bonucci and Maguire earning selection meant their centre-back colleagues Giorgio Chiellini and John Stones narrowly missed out despite playing crucial roles.

England conceded just two goals all tournament, with only one of those coming in open play. A large part of that was down to ever-present defender Stones, who won 20 aerial challenges – the joint-second most of any defender in the competition, one behind Maguire.

Shaw was left out for England's opening game against Croatia, but the full-back soon made himself a consistent presence. He was even compared to the great Roberto Carlos after starring with two assists against Ukraine in the quarter-finals.

The Manchester United defender provided three assists in total and netted the fastest-ever goal in a European Championship final with his volley against Italy. Those four goal involvements were bettered only by Schick (five) and Ronaldo (six).

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Verratti was a major fitness doubt for the tournament and sat out Italy's first two matches, but made an emormous impact in the following five games.

Since his first game against Wales on June 20, all-rounder Verratti ranked first among all midfielders at Euro 2020 for chances created (14), passes completed (388), progressive carries (59), tackles (18) and recoveries of possession (37).

 

Pogba likely paid the price for his team's exit rather than his own displays. 

He scored a stunning goal against Switzerland after getting two assists in the 2-2 group-stage draw with Portugal, and his supreme link-up play with Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Benzema was among the highlights of the early weeks of the tournament.

Schick not only scored the joint-most goals, but he was responsible for surely the most memorable one of the lot - a 49.7-yard lob against Scotland, the furthest ever distance a goal has been scored at a European Championships.

The Bayer Leverkusen forward found the net in all but one of his side's games, with three of his goals coming from open play, compared to just two for Ronaldo.

Even though it was far from a vintage tournament for Ronaldo and dethroned champions Portugal, the Juventus superstar still claimed the Golden Boot accolade thanks to having one assist more than fellow five-goal forward Schick.

Ronaldo's 72 minutes per goal was the best return of any player to have played at least three times in the tournament. 

His haul also moved him level with Iran great Ali Daei as the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football with 109, a record that he will get a chance to break later this year.

 

UEFA's Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy); Kyle Walker (England), Leonardo Bonucci (Italy), Harry Maguire (England), Leonardo Spinazzola (Italy); Jorginho (Italy), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Denmark), Pedri (Spain); Federico Chiesa (Italy), Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Raheem Sterling (England).

Italy ended their 53-year wait for a second European Championship crown with victory over England in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

Leonardo Bonucci cancelled out an early Luke Shaw goal to take the game to extra time and then penalties, which the Azzurri edged 3-2 to inflict heartbreak on hosts England.

Italy's triumph was deserved on the basis of the qualifying campaign and the tournament itself; Roberto Mancini's side have now gone 34 games unbeaten in all competitions.

England can also be proud of their run, and it is perhaps no surprise that the two finalists dominate Stats Perform's best XI of the tournament.

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo is also included in our Opta data-driven side, along with players from Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

 

Goalkeeper: Yann Sommer (Switzerland)

Gianluigi Donnarumma may have been named UEFA's Player of the Tournament for his penalty shoot-out heroics against Spain and Italy, but Sommer gets the nod after enjoying an incredible tournament.

The Swiss goalkeeper saved a Kylian Mbappe penalty in his side's shoot-out win against France in the last 16 and made a tournament-high 21 saves in total, 10 of those coming in the eventual defeat to Spain on penalties in the quarter-finals.

 

Right-back: Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands)

Dumfries' reputation was certainly enhanced during Euro 2020, even if the Netherlands were sent packing by the Czech Republic at the last-16 stage.

He became just the second ever Netherlands player, after Ruud van Nistelrooy, to score in his first two European Championship appearances, while also helping his side to a couple of clean sheets in his four outings.

Centre-back: Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)

Juventus defender Bonucci was a rock at the heart of Italy's defence, particularly in the quarter-finals when frustrating Belgium's plethora of attackers.

No defender made more interceptions than the 34-year-old (12, level with Ukraine's Mykola Matvienko), and it was his bundled finish that drew his country level against England in the final.

Centre-back: John Stones (England)

England conceded just two goals all tournament, with only one of those coming in open play. A large part of that was down to ever-present defender Stones, who carried his club form with Manchester City onto the international stage.

Stones won 20 aerial challenges – the joint-second most of any defender in the competition, one behind Harry Maguire – and his 447 successful passes placed him behind only Jordi Alba (458) and club-mate Aymeric Laporte (644).

Left-back: Luke Shaw (England)

Shaw was left out for England's opening game against Croatia, but the full-back soon made himself a consistent presence. He was even compared to the great Roberto Carlos after starring with two assists against Ukraine in the quarter-finals.

The Manchester United defender provided three assists in total and netted the fastest-ever goal in a European Championship final with his volley against Italy. Those four goal involvements were bettered only by Patrik Schick (five) and Ronaldo (six).

 

Central midfield: Marco Verratti (Italy)

The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder was a major fitness doubt for the tournament and sat out Italy's first two matches, but boy did he make an impact in the following five games.

Since his first game against Wales on June 20, all-rounder Verratti ranked first among all midfielders at Euro 2020 for chances created (14), passes completed (388), progressive carries (59), tackles (18) and recoveries of possession (37).

Central midfield: Pedri (Spain)

A number of young players enjoyed a breakthrough tournament at this edition of the Euros, arguably none more so than Barcelona superstar in the making Pedri, who made more passes in the opposing half (348) than any other player at the Euros.

He became the second European player to start as many as five games at the age of 18 or below in major tournament history, after Northern Ireland's Norman Whiteside. Proving age is just a number, Pedri completed all 55 of his passes in regular time in the semi-final loss to Italy.

Right wing: Federico Chiesa (Italy)

Versatile wide player Chiesa was always going to be one to watch at the Euros, having stepped up on the big occasions for Juventus last season with goals in key matches, including their Coppa Italia triumph against Atalanta.

He scored Italy's extra-time opener in their last-16 win against Austria and put his side ahead against Spain in the semi-finals. He was not afraid to shoot – only three others did so on more occasions – and was arguably Italy's most dangerous player in the final.

Attacking midfield: Patrik Schick (Czech Republic)

Schick not only scored the joint-most goals, his five strikes putting him level with Ronaldo, but he was responsible for surely the most memorable one of the lot - a 49.7-yard lob against Scotland, the furthest ever distance a goal has been scored at a European Championships.

The Bayer Leverkusen forward found the net in all but one of his side's games, with three of his goals coming from open play, compared to just two for Golden Boot winner Ronaldo.

 

Left wing: Raheem Sterling (England)

England's run to the final would not have been possible if not for the fine form of Sterling, the Manchester City winger responsible for his side's first three goals in the competition.

That includes winning strikes against Croatia and the Czech Republic in the group stage, followed by the opener against Germany in the last 16, before assisting Kane's early goal against Ukraine. Even when not scoring he was a real threat, leading the way with 20 dribbles completed – four more than next player on the list in Frenkie de Jong.

Centre-forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Even though it was far from a vintage tournament for Ronaldo and dethroned champions Portugal, the Juventus superstar still claimed the Golden Boot accolade thanks to having one assist more than fellow five-goal forward Schick.

Ronaldo's 72 minutes per goal was the best return of any player to have played at least three times in the tournament. His haul also moved him level with Iran great Ali Daei as the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football with 109, a record that he will get a chance to break later this year.

 

Italy were crowned European Championship winners for a second time after beating England 3-2 on penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

The Azzurri fell behind to Luke Shaw's record-breaking strike inside two minutes, but Leonardo Bonucci hit back and the contest finished 1-1 at the end of 120 minutes.

Roberto Mancini's men held their nerve in London to stretch their unbeaten run to 34 matches and end their 53-year wait to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy – the longest-ever gap between championships in the tournament by a single nation, surpassing Spain's 44-year wait from 1964 to 2008. 

Only Germany (seven) have won more major titles among European sides than the six Italy have now managed, having also lifted the World Cup on four occasions.

On the back of another dramatic clash at Wembley, and the end of a thrilling tournament, Stats Perform looks at the key takeaways from Sunday's action.

Shaw gets England off to fast start

Shaw got on the end of a Kieran Trippier cross to volley England into the lead with one minute and 57 seconds on the clock, surpassing ​Chus Pereda for Spain against the Soviet Union in 1964 (05:04) as the fastest goal in a European Championship final.

That was the third goal scored in the opening two minutes at Euro 2020, which is as many as the previous 15 editions of the tournament combined.

Shaw's strike was also England's fastest ever in a Euros match, 17 seconds quicker than Alan Shearer's effort against Germany in 1996.

Bonucci inspires Italy comeback

England did not manage another attempt of any note until Harry Maguire headed off target in the 56th minute, by which time Italy had grabbed a foothold in the match.

Having trailed for 65 minutes at Wembley – compared to the 44 minutes they were behind in total during their previous 33 unbeaten matches – the Azzurri levelled up through Bonucci's close-range finish.

At the age of 34 years and 71 days, Bonucci is the oldest player ever to score in a Euros final, and the second-oldest ever for a European side at a major tournament after Nils Liedholm for Sweden against Brazil at the 1958 World Cup (35y 264d).

 

A familiar outcome at Wembley

With nothing to separate the sides in the remainder of normal time, this became the third major tournament final at Wembley  – along with the 1966 World Cup and Euro 96 – to go to extra-time.

Of England's last 10 major tournament games that went to extra-time before Sunday, eight went to a penalty shoot-out. So that proved for a ninth time in a row, with neither side showing enough quality to find a winner in the additional 30 minutes.

A dramatic shootout was eventually settled by Gianluigi Donnarumma keeping out Bukayo Saka's penalty, making Italy just the second side ever to win two shoot-outs at a single edition of the Euros, having also gone the distance against Spain in the semis.

England have now won just two of their nine major tournament penalty shoot-outs, the lowest ratio of any European nation to have been involved in three or more.

Playing alongside Gianluigi Donnarumma is similar to playing with Gianluigi Buffon, according to Leonardo Bonucci, one of Italy's Euro 2020 heroes.

Donnarumma saved two penalties in a 3-2 shootout success over England in the final on Sunday, as Italy became European champions for the second time after a 1-1 draw at Wembley.

The 22-year-old, who is set to join Paris Saint-Germain following the expiration of his Milan contract, denied Jadon Sancho before keeping out Bukayo Saka's penalty, which the Arsenal teenager needed to convert to keep England's hopes alive.

It sent the Wembley crowd from euphoria to despondency, with Jordan Pickford having just kept England in it with his second save of the shootout – the Everton goalkeeper parrying Jorginho's effort onto the post.

Italy have now won six major international tournaments, while they became the first team to win two shootouts in the same edition of a European Championship.

Donnarumma, meanwhile, has won all five of the shootouts he has been involved in with club and country so far in his career, and Bonucci, who scored the equalising goal to cancel out Luke Shaw's opener, compared the youngster to an Azzurri legend.

"I was lucky because I played with Gianluigi Buffon, now I play with Gigi Donnarumma – it is the same!" Bonucci told ITV Sport.

Along with fellow veteran campaigner Giorgio Chiellini, who at 36 years and 331 days is now the third-oldest player to appear in a European Championship final, Bonucci put in a towering display at the back for Italy.

Kept under wraps by Italy's wily defenders, England talisman Harry Kane failed to muster a shot or create a goal-scoring chance for only the second time in his 61 appearances for the Three Lions.

In the build-up to Sunday's showdown, Chiellini revealed Italy's squad were puzzled when Roberto Mancini outlined his intention to win Euro 2020 upon taking charge three years ago, but the Azzurri have been a joy to watch at the tournament and ultimately deserved their triumph, even if it came the hard way. Indeed, Shaw's opener was the quickest goal scored in a European Championship final.

"Anything is possible," added Bonucci, who became Italy's outright top appearance maker at the European Championship with what was his 18th game in the competition.

"England scored after two minutes, it was difficult to ask, all of the fans give their energy into the battle. It was important to be calm, we start to play, play, play and play. We were calm at the end of the first half, we talked altogether – we have to play, play, play. We find the right pass, find the right shot, this is the way to win.

"History. It is a dream come true. We feel some magic when we started this stage. We feel inside to come to Wembley, it is so difficult. We are more than happy. We see the image of [Fabio] Cannavaro holding up the World Cup – we are lucky."

Gianluigi Donnarumma was Italy's hero as he saved from Bukayo Saka to clinch a 3-2 penalty shootout victory over England after a 1-1 draw in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley. 

Jordan Pickford saved two of Italy's spot-kicks, yet it was his counterpart who came up with the goods to clinch the Azzurri's second European Championship title. 

It was a night that started so well for England, with Luke Shaw scoring the quickest goal in a Euro final. 

Yet mounting Italy pressure told when Leonardo Bonucci scored midway through the second half, and after late substitutes Marcus Rashford hit the post and Jadon Sancho failed to beat Donnarumma in the shootout, Saka fell foul of Italy's goalkeeper as England suffered heartbreak on home soil.

Leonardo Bonucci made history when he scored Italy's equaliser against England on Sunday, becoming the oldest player to score in a European Championship final.

The Juventus centre-back, aged 34 years and 71 days, netted from close range after 67 minutes at Wembley to cancel out Luke Shaw's early strike.

Bonucci, who made his Italy debut in 2010, became the second-oldest player for a European side to score at any major tournament, after Nils Liedholm (35y 264d) for Sweden against Brazil at the 1958 World Cup.

He was making his 18th European Championship appearance - the most of any Italian player, overtaking Gianluigi Buffon's 17.

Gareth Southgate insists Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips will not be fazed about going up against Italy's much-lauded midfield, pointing out they coped well despite their relative inexperience against two modern greats in Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

Italy have enjoyed almost universal acclaim for their performances at Euro 2020, with their run to Sunday's final seeing them extend their unbeaten run to 33 matches, a national record.

A lot of the praise has been centred around their midfield trio of Nicolo Barella, Jorginho and Marco Verratti, the latter two in particular.

Jorginho carries out an important function as their deep-lying playmaker, and his influence is highlighted by the fact he has completed more passes (390) and had more touches of the ball (503) than any of his team-mates, while his 38 instances of regaining possession and instigating passing sequences is 10 more than anyone else in the tournament.

As for Verratti, the Paris Saint-Germain star's 12 key passes is bettered by only Kevin De Bruyne and he leads the way in terms of involvements in open-play sequences that end in a shot, averaging 9.2 every 90 minutes (players with at least 165 mins played), which paints a picture of not only great creativity but also significant impact generally in Italy's build-up play.

 

Yet Italy struggled in that area against Spain and were subsequently overrun at times, their 0.8 xG to La Roja's 1.5 proof they were somewhat fortunate to get past Luis Enrique's side via a penalty shoot-out.

As such, Spain essentially highlighted that to dull Italy's strengths they need to win the midfield battle, and Southgate feels his players in that area are up to the challenge.

"I think when you're coaching a team, you watch everything and you have to decide the most important information for players, not flood them with too much, adapt the game to our strengths and highlight potential weaknesses," Southgate told reporters ahead of England's first major final in 55 years.

 

"Of course there are fantastic players all through the Italy team, they've a good tactical plan, an experienced coach and an amazing record over last 30 games or so, we are very aware of that.

"But players like our two midfielders [Rice and Phillips], they've played beyond their experience in this tournament and they've already played against Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, so they've had to adapt to these midfield players with great European experience and they've done that brilliantly.

"We're different, we have our own strengths, own style of play, which is geared towards the strengths of our players.

"That's the beauty of football, every team has different strengths, we've tried to play to ours and adapt to our strengths and we need to do the same [on Sunday]."

Another Italian double act that has been showered with praise is centre-back pairing Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, whose combined 33 European Championship appearances is four more than England's entire back five that started the semi-final against Denmark.

While they may not possess the same ball-carrying ease as England's Harry Maguire and John Stones, Chiellini remains a formidable scrapper even at the age of 36, with his 71.4 duels success bettered by only six defenders (involved in 10 or more duels). And Bonucci continues to read the game well, his haul of 12 interceptions being the most of all defenders at Euro 2020.

Together, there is not much they do not possess, and Harry Kane is relishing the chance to go up against them.

"They're two amazing defenders with great experience over their careers of big matches," Kane said.

"I've been fortunate to play against them before, and as a striker I want to play against the best and they're definitely up there."

 

Kane himself has had an intriguing tournament given he was widely criticised for a slow start that saw him fail to score until the knockout phase, yet he now has four heading into the final.

It is a curious change from his performance at the 2018 World Cup, when he scored five in the group and only one in the knockouts, and he suggested that may be by design.

"Obviously don't get me wrong, I'd have loved to have scored three or four in the group and got off to fantastic start and gone from there, but it was more about the energy," he said.

"I felt in the World Cup, it was such an amazing start, scoring in the last minute against Tunisia, a lot of energy after that game was used in terms of the emotion, and then against Panama it was the same, because it was an amazing game and I got a hat-trick.

"Again, there's a lot of talk and mental energy [expended] – Colombia was the same. Not just physically but mentally I felt I just lost a little towards the latter stages, so going into this one with a bit more experience it's about not getting too carried away, whether I score or not.

"Thankfully it's worked out pretty well, but I guess that's part of the learning curve and gaining that experience, hopefully I've enough left to finish the job."

There was a sense of justice and vindication about Italy reaching the final of Euro 2020. They had been arguably the most entertaining side at the tournament and attracted near-universal levels of acclaim for their performances.

Added to that, there was an inspiring narrative that followed their every step, how they'd recovered from the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, started from scratch with a new coach and philosophy, and seen it all come together at their first major tournament since.

But they were fortunate to get beyond Spain in the semi-finals, eventually coming through on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

La Roja did more than enough to win the match, their 1.5 xG almost double the 0.8 that Italy recorded, highlighting the greater quality chances created by Luis Enrique's men.

Although Spain's almost trademark – at this tournament, anyway – wastefulness eventually caught up with them, they at least did Gareth Southgate and England a service in pinpointing ways to hurt Italy.

 

Thinking outside of the box

The chief alteration Luis Enrique made to his side from Spain's previous matches at Euro 2020 was the decision to disregard Alvaro Morata and Gerard Moreno for that central striker berth.

Now, some might have suggested it was about time, given they were two of the three players with the worst xG underperformance ahead of the semi-finals – Morata had two goals from 3.95 xG, Moreno had no goals from 3.27 xG.

But the reason for their absence, and the presence of Dani Olmo as a false nine, quickly became apparent. The RB Leipzig attacking midfielder withdrew into deeper positions so as to not directly engage Giorgio Chiellini or Leonardo Bonucci in physical duels, but at the same time this helped create midfield overloads in Spain's favour.

This was obvious on numerous occasions, but one of the most notable saw Olmo actually drop in front of Jorginho, a clever flick in the centre-circle seeing him release Pedri into space as Spain cleverly picked through the Italian midfield.

Granted, it didn't necessarily lead to a goal that time, but it highlighted how uncomfortable Italy sometimes found themselves, and the fact Olmo's combined total of seven shots and key passes (five attempts, two chances created) was the most of any player against Italy at this tournament cannot be a coincidence.

Morata's equaliser off the bench came from a situation not too dissimilar to the previous one as well. This time it was he who picked the ball up in a deep position, before charging straight through the Italy midfield and playing a one-two with Olmo, leaving him with a simple finish. Although he might've missed a few of those already in this tournament, he finished with aplomb on that occasion.

 

The blueprint

You know how in some video games there are unusually fearsome enemies who only unleash their wrath upon the player if they don't keep their distance? Well, that seemed to be how Luis Enrique saw Chiellini and Bonucci, and maybe he has a point.

Ahead of the final, Chiellini's 71.4 per cent duels success has been bettered by only six defenders (involved in 10 or more duels), while Bonucci's 12 interceptions is the best of all of them. Together, there's not much they don't possess.

That's why playing around them, rather than through them, seems to be the way to go.

While England don't possess a midfield that's as capable – in almost any sense – as Spain's, mirroring their set-up could at least make things trickier for Italy's core: that centre-back pairing and the three-man midfield.

Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti have been largely excellent at Euro 2020, but at Wembley on Tuesday they were overrun.

 

Jorginho found it particularly tough going, the Chelsea man completing just 26 passes and only five of those were in the Spain half. To put that into context, his previous match low for accurate passes at the Euros was 50, and he'd not gone below 29 in the opponent's half of the pitch.

 

Verratti and Barella also recorded tournament lows in the same metrics, but it was Jorginho's lack of influence that was most notable and, given he is generally the deepest-lying of the Italian midfield, it lends further credence to the idea that Olmo operating slightly deeper ensured the former Napoli star was uncomfortable and unable to truly dictate.

Instead, that was done by Sergio Busquets and – to a slightly lesser extent, but no less impressively – Pedri, while Koke spent much of his time marshalling Verratti in something of a man-marking role.

Of course, an important distinction to make is that Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice and Mason Mount aren't Busquets, Pedri and Koke, but if England are to limit the influence of the Italian midfield, all three will need to play the games of their lives.

Kane holds the key

If Phillips and Rice can establish some form of control, the second key factor for England will be the role played by Harry Kane.

While Kane is undoubtedly capable of causing Bonucci and Chiellini problems, mimicking Olmo's performance could be a smart move, and there are few strikers in world football more capable than the Tottenham man at dropping deep and impacting the match in withdrawn spaces.

Jose Mourinho would know all about that, given it was under the Portuguese coach in 2020-21 that Kane enjoyed his best season creatively, reaching double figures for Premier League assists for the first time.

Mourinho told talkSPORT: "[Spain] was the only team that managed to unbalance that Italy midfield, because they had three and Spain had three plus Olmo, almost in a diamond. It was really difficult for Italy to cope with it. I can see Harry Kane doing that a lot. I can see Harry dropping and being away from Bonucci and Chiellini.

 

"For Bonucci and Chilellini, to have a target man in there is what they want. By not having a target man there, it's an extra midfielder, Harry Kane does that better than anyone."

Kane's 14 assists (12 in open play) in 2020-21 came from 3.6 xA (expected assists). Granted, that 10.4 over-performance – which was by far the best across the top five leagues – suggests a hint of fortune or that he was helped by good finishing from team-mates, but the idea he got lucky on every single occasion is far-fetched. He is clearly a fine link-up player.

Seven of those assists came from deeper positions, and the role Raheem Sterling plays for England isn't too dissimilar to that of Son Heung-min at Spurs, and we all know about Kane and Son's on-pitch relationship.

Italy's midfield is their strength, but all three of their regulars are players who want the ball – none of them are destroyers, and Spain have provided England with the blueprint to dull their impact.

Whether the Three Lions are up to the challenge will define if 55 years of hurt finally end on Sunday.

 

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.

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."

Roberto Mancini described his Italy players as "extraordinary" after they booked a Euro 2020 semi-final spot with a 2-1 win over Belgium in Munich on Friday. 

Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne put the Azzurri two goals ahead by the 44th minute, but Belgium pulled one back before the interval courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku penalty. 

The Azzurri held on to extend their unbeaten run to 32 games, however, and will now play Spain at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday after Luis Enrique's side overcame Switzerland on penalties earlier in the day.

Italy have now reached the semi-finals of a major tournament for the 12th time – the only European nation to do so more is Germany (20 times).

The result also meant Mancini became only the second coach in European Championship history to win each of his first five matches in the competition finals after Michel Hidalgo, who won all five of his matches in charge of France at the 1984 edition.

"We deserved the victory," Mancini told RAI Sport. "The lads were extraordinary, and clearly we suffered in the last 10 minutes as we were really tired, but we could've scored more goals earlier.

"I didn't see 25 minutes of struggle at the start. There were chances at both ends, it was an open game. We only struggled in the last 10 minutes when Belgium started playing a long ball game.

"We had no minimum target. We just wanted to do our best. There are still two games to go, we'll see what happens.

"Let us enjoy this victory, then we can think about Spain. Congratulations to the lads, they did a great job."

 

Central to Italy's success was the colossal defensive display by Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. 

No player on the pitch made more clearances than Chiellini's six, while the pair helped reduce the Red Devils to just a solitary shot on target in the second period. 

Bonucci expects a tough game against Spain but urged his team-mates to be ready to go into battle. 

"Now we can keep dreaming with our feet on the ground," he said. "Spain are a great team, but we started this tournament with a dream in our hearts; let's keep it there until the end.

"There are two matches to go, the most difficult will be against Spain, who play similar to Belgium. They again looked as if they might not make it, but they got back on their feet, so it'll be a battle to the end."

The one sour note for Italy was the late injury suffered by Leonardo Spinazzola, with reports in Italy after the game suggesting he had ruptured his Achilles tendon.

"Leonardo had a great Euros, whoever replaces him will do just as well," Bonucci added.

With the group stage of Euro 2020 now over, we can get down to the important business: arguing over who have been the best players until now.

The first three matchdays produced some enthralling spectacles, a handful of shocks and one or two rather forgettable encounters of which there is no need to speak any more.

We have seen some rather obvious star turns, such as a certain Portugal striker equalling the record for international goals in men's football, while other standout performers have flown a little more under the radar.

Here, using Opta data for added insight, Stats Perform presents the Euro 2020 team of the group stage. Please do read on for a few explanations before starting on those angry comments...

 

 

GK: DANNY WARD

Wales battled their way into the knockout rounds after finishing second in Group A, ahead of Switzerland on goal difference. Much of that is down to Danny Ward's form.

The Leicester City man saved 86.7 of the shots on target he faced, the best record among keepers to make at least five saves.

 

LCB: DALEY BLIND

The Netherlands surprised a few people with three convincing wins in Group C, with Daley Blind's calm yet authoritative presence at the heart of their performances.

Blind completed 221 passes in the group stage, more than any other Oranje player, with more than half of those (115) coming in opposition territory.

 

CB: ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN

Quite rightly celebrated for that thunderbolt of a goal in Denmark's key victory over Russia, Andreas Christensen's all-round displays make him worthy of inclusion here.

The Chelsea defender won 79.2 of his duels in the first three rounds, a tally bettered only by Oleksandr Karavaev (80 per cent) and Thomas Vermaelen (90 per cent) among those to contest at least 10.

 

RCB: LEONARDO BONUCCI

Italy's 1.3 expected goals against was the lowest figure of any side in the group phase, underlining the imperious nature of their form not just at these finals but in the whole of their 11-game winning run in which they have not let in a single goal.

Leonardo Bonucci has been the rock at the back, particularly with Giorgio Chiellini battling injury. He has won possession 11 times, the most of any Azzurri defender, and has yet to be beaten by a dribble.

 

LWB: JORDI ALBA

Jordi Alba was Spain's standout performer until the rest of the team somewhat caught up on matchday three as they turned on the style to thrash Slovakia 5-0.

The Barcelona left-back completed 247 passes, the most of any defender after Aymeric Laporte (259), while leading the way for possession won (30 times).

 

CM: GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM

With three goals in three games, Georginio Wijnaldum surpassed the great Marco van Basten on the all-time Netherlands scoring charts to reach 25 for his country.

Enjoying a more advanced role at these finals, Paris Saint-Germain fans are being given a glimpse of what the midfielder could provide for them next season.

 

CM: PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG

Alongside Kevin De Bruyne, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is one of only two midfielders to create nine goalscoring chances during the group stage.

The Tottenham man set up two Denmark's goals in the 4-1 hammering of Russia to move to three assists at these finals, a tally matched only by Switzerland's Steven Zuber.

 

CM: MANUEL LOCATELLI

His two goals against Switzerland were the highlight of his group-stage displays and made Manuel Locatelli just the third Italy player to score twice in a single European Championship match.

The Sassuolo star was rested against Wales, but the quality of his performances in the first two games prompted rumours that Juventus have redoubled their efforts to sign him.

 

RWB: DENZEL DUMFRIES

Full-back Denzel Dumfries became an unlikely goalscoring hero for Frank de Boer, becoming just the second Netherlands player to score in his first two European Championship games (the first was Ruud van Nistelrooy).

Denmark wing-back Joakim Maehle was the only nominal defender with more touches in the opposition box (20) during the group stage than Dumfries (17).

 

CF: ROMELU LUKAKU

Continuing his spectacular Inter form at these finals, Romelu Lukaku scored three times in Belgium's group games from a total of just four shots on target.

He would probably be the favourite for the Golden Boot were it not for the form of the only man to outscore him in Serie A last season...

 

CF: CRISTIANO RONALDO

With five goals in three games, Cristiano Ronaldo became the leading goalscorer at the World Cup and European Championship combined (21).

The Portugal captain needs just one more to surpass Ali Daei as the top-scoring international men's footballer of all time.

Roberto Mancini has no doubt in his Italy side's ability to improve during Euro 2020, despite the Azzurri starting their campaign in emphatic fashion.

Italy beat Turkey 3-0 in Rome on Friday in the tournament's opening match – Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne scoring after Merih Demiral had put through his own net.

The Azzurri have won their last nine games, keeping a clean sheet in all of those encounters, while Mancini is closing in on Vittorio Pozzo's record of 30 games unbeaten, with his Italy team just two shy on 28.

They will be looking to increase those respective records on Wednesday, with Switzerland next up at the Stadio Olimpico. Indeed, a win would be enough to ensure Italy's progression from Group A.

"The Turkey game was difficult," Mancini told a news conference. "But when we scored, they opened up. We will have to win the next one and if possible also the next one. We have to do our best.

"I am confident. This is an excellent team that can only improve. If the bookmakers say Italy are favourites, we accept it because they get it right, but the championship is still long. We have much work to do."

Italy failed to qualify for World Cup 2018, and Leonardo Bonucci knows the squad must remain humble if they are to avoid a slip up.

"Three years ago was a real low point for us," he said. "Humility and keeping your feet on the ground are the secrets to competing like we did against Turkey.

"We have always reset after great wins, continuing to do our duty. The desire to return to the national team is back. It is thanks to the coach, we came from a dark place."

Yet the spirit in Italy's camp has left Bonucci full of hope.

He added: "This is the greatest team spirit I have encountered. At no time have there been any issues in the squad. It is a very tight group and it is little wonder then that we are getting results."

Bonucci has also been impressed by England – Gareth Southgate's team having beat Croatia 1-0 in their Group D opener on Sunday.

"Besides the teams that still need to play – who will of course impress us because they are all top countries – England have really stood out to me," he said.

"For the approach they showed, the way they were willing to work hard for one another, England are the team that have impressed me most so far."

Behind Bonucci, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is looking to become the second-youngest goalkeeper in the history of the European Championships to keep a clean sheet in consecutive appearances (22 years, 111 days on the day of this game), after Russia's Igor Akinfeev in June 2008 (22y 71d).

Donnarumma is set to leave Milan upon the expiration of his contract this month, with Paris Saint-Germain heavily linked – speculation emerging this week that the goalkeeper will undergo his medical while on Italy duty.

It is a move which Mancini believes would be good for one of Europe's best shot-stoppers.

"I don't know what will happen, as I haven't talked to him about it," said Mancini. "Donnarumma is a great goalkeeper. If he were to go to PSG, it would be a good choice, as this is a big club."

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