Euro 2020 is all done and dusted. The postponed tournament was full of surprises, thrillers, long-range worldies and so much more. A tournament that saw Christian Eriksen collapse with a cardiac arrest on Day 2, ended with a nail-biting encounter that needeed penalties to decide the winner. Italy, in the end, will wear the crown.
It was a fantastic game, played at a high tempo. England, playing a tournament final for the first time, had the backing of a boisterous home crowd at Wembley. Italy, returning to the big stage after failing to qualify for 2018 World Cup, had plenty of experienced indivudals to bank on. An exhilarating start led to a tense exchange that couldn't produce a winner in 120 minutes of quality football.
Euro 2020 final: Fast start for England
At one minutes and 57 seconds, Luke Shaw's opener was lightning quick. Indeed, it is the fastest goal ever scored in a European Championship final.
It capped a remarkable tournament for the left-back. After all, if Euro 2020 did happen in 2020, Shaw would have been nowhere near the England squad. One good season can do wonders.
Gareth Southgate reverted to the back three that got England past Germany in the Round of 16. Unlike the Germans, Italy play a back four. However, it's worth noting that Austria's back three gave Italy a few problems in their knockout game.
Bukayo Saka returned to the bench as Kieran Trippier came in to take up the right wing-back slot. Southgate's decision was vindicated very quickly, within two minutes in fact. Trippier took up a good position out on the right and his deep cross was lashed in by Shaw past Giovanni di Lorenzo and Gianluigi Donnarumma. Wembley came to life immediately. England fans rejoiced as Shaw became the first England player to score in a final since Sir Geoff Hurst.
England were very much in ascendancy at the beginning. They had the lead, and they could sit back contently. Indeed, they let Italy keep the ball for long periods, but the defensive organisation was meticulous. Italy had the ball at their feet, but no way to get past the defensive line. There was one standout moment for Italy, when Chiesa skipped past Rice and unleashed a shot that went just wide of Pickford's near post. That was about as good as it got for the Azurri. At the end of the first half, England could be happy with a job well done, leaving Italy with some headaches.
Euro 2020 final: Italian resurgence
England sat back and defended well after Shaw's goal. They had no issue with letting Italy keep the ball at their feet for long periods. Unfortunately, time is what Jorginho and Marco Veratti wanted. The midfield duo began controlling the game as time passed. They dictated the game from deep, and Italy began to create chances.
The deeper England sat, the more space Veratti and Jorginho had. Rice and Phillips became passengers, and the home side started to make more rushed clearances. At some point, hence, the dam had to break. It arrived from a corner. Pickford turned Veratti's header on to the post, but Bonucci turned in the rebound.
The momentum was in Italy's favour now. They created a number of chances, and could have won it. The excellent Chiesa was forced off through injury unfortunately, and that reduced the threat a little. After 90 minutes. extra-time beckoned. In regulation time, however, Mancini's substitutions chnged the game. Bryan Cristante, on for Barella, made some brilliant runs, and helped Veratti and Jorginho control the midfield. Berardi came on for Immobile. And he provided the kind of width that was missing earlier with an ineffective Immobile up front and Insigne on the wing. Southgate's first change was only after conceding. He brought Saka on for Trippier and switched to 4-3-3. Jordan Henderson was on in place of Declan Rice and he helped England attack better. Ultimately, though, neither managed to change the game like Italy's substitutes did.
Euro 2020 final: The overtime
Jack Grealish, too, failed to impact after replacing Mount in extra-time. By the end, it seemed like both teams were now playing for penalties. Southgate, in fact, brought on Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho in the last minute specifically to take penalties. It backfired, as neither scored. Donnarumma went the wrong way, but Rashford struck the post.
The former AC Milan goalkeeper saved Sancho's strike next. Pickford saved Belotti's penalty earlier, and he saved from Jorginho to keep England alive. England, surprisingly, sent 19-year-old Bukayo Saka to take the final penalty despite having experienced players such as Raheem Sterling on the pitch. The Arsenal academy graduate set up for the final kick, but Donnarumma produced a decisive save that crowned Italy champions.
The Euro 2020 Awards
Euro 2020 Final Man of the Match: Leonardo Bonucci
Verdict: Bonucci is a well-deserved winner of the award. The 34-year old was solid against England. He won his battle against Kane, refusing the England captain space to operate. He also turned in the equaliser and scored an emphatic penalty in the shoot-out.
Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament: Gianluigi Donnarumma
Verdict: Donnarumma was decisive in both the semi-final and final penalty shoot-outs. Overall, he didn't have much to do in the tournament. Group stage was a stroll. Austria, for all their stubbornness, did not test him too much. He made some good saves against Belgium and Spain. In seven games, he kept three clean sheets, and made just nine saves. He was good, but my vote for Player of the Tournament would go to Jorginho. The midfielder is now the tenth player to win the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Euro in the same season. Jorginho isn't too fancy on the ball, but he controls the pace and keeps possession. His 25 interceptions at Euro 2020 is highest by a player at a single European Championship.
Euro 2020 Young Player of the Tournament: Pedri
Verdict: A well deserved winner. The Barcelona midfielder is only 18, but his grace and maturity on the ball belie his age. He was excellent for Spain, troubling the defenders and keeping the midfield ticking alongside Blaugrana teammate Sergio Busquets.
Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament
Gianluigi Donnarumma; Luke Shaw, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Joakim Maehle; Pedri, Jorginho, Kalvin Phillips; Raheem Sterling, Patrick Schick, Federico Chiesa;
Bench: Jordan Pickford, Leonardo Spinazzola, John Stones, Sergio Busquets, Mikkel Damsgaard, Harry Kane