Italy, who defeated England in the final of Euro 2021, had inflicted a similar defeat on the Three Lions in the quarterfinal of Euro 2012.
The Euro 2021 final between England and Italy witnessed a pulsating encounter. In front of a frenzied public of close to 90,000 in Wembley, England and Italy played out the ultimate humdinger. Luke Shaw’s goal in the second minute had sent the home team into raptures. But, Italy equalized in the 67th minute thanks to Leonardo Bonucci. The game went into extra time but both sides held firm. In the end, it boiled down to penalties.
Jordan Pickford and Gianluigi Donnarumma had excellent saves, but it was Donnarumma who proved to be even better. Italy won the match 3-2 on penalties and England was denied. The Azzurri had won the Euro tournament after a gap of 53 years, which is the longest in history. However, England’s wait for a major trophy was prolonged. Their win in a competitive match against Italy was extended even further, having last won in 1978.
It was deja-vu for England in a penalty shootout against Italy. Nine years ago, England suffered a similar heartbreak against an Italian side that was on top of their game.
The Euro 2012 competition saw Spain enter as the defending champions. Spain and Italy were in the same group, along with Croatia and Republic of Ireland. Spain qualified from the group. Italy drew their first two games against Spain and Croatia. But, in the game against Republic of Ireland, they won 2-0 to enter the next round.
England, on the other hand, were also in a tough group with France, Sweden and Ukraine. The Three Lions drew their game against France and registered wins against Ukraine and Sweden. Both Italy and England were tipped to face each other in the quarterfinal. It was a match that would be attritional and emotional.
Italy dominated possession and had more shots on goal. But, England keeper Joe Hart had a great game as he kept the Italian players at bay. With the game ending 0-0 at regulation time, the match went into extra-time. The deadlock did not end there and the match went into penalties.
Mario Balotelli was the first to come up and take the penalty. Facing him was his Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart. Balotelli calmly slotted the ball in the back of the net. Steven Gerrard came up and blasted the penalty past Gianluigi Buffon to keep the score 1-1. Ricardo Montolivo missed the penalty as his shot went wide of the goalpost. Wayne Rooney, England’s No.10, calmly slotted the ball into the back to give England a 2-1 lead. However, the moment of the match came afterwards.
With Italy 1-2 down, it needed someone calm to settle the nerves. Andrea Pirlo was the man for the job. He calmly slotted the penalty through the Panenka, which is chipping the ball down the middle as the goalkeeper dives either way. Pirlo was brilliance personified as he slotted the ball in the back of the net to tie the score at 2-2. Ashley Young missed his chance as the ball hit the crossbar.
Antonio Nocerino gave Italy the advantage as his powerful strike gave Italy a 3-2 lead. Ashley Cole was denied the chance due to the brilliance of Buffon. Alessandro Diamanti then sealed the deal for Italy as they won 4-2 on penalties to enter the semi-final.
The Azzurri managed to reach the final thanks to a 2-1 win over Germany in the semi-final. Spain defeated Portugal 4-2 on penalties to enter the final. However, a golden generation of Spanish footballers put up a clinical display as Italy was hammered 0-4 by Spain to prolong their pain. This made Spain the first and only defending champions of the Euro. At that time, it was Italy’s second loss in the final, having earlier lost to France in 2000 due to the golden goal by David Trezeguet.
For England, the wait has now gone past 20,000 days for a major football trophy. Italy’s win in 2021 has now given them their sixth world title and they are only behind Germany with seven. Italy will now be hoping for greater redemption as they seek entry for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.