UEFA 2020 Euro Championship – Day 27

Italy (0) 1 – 1 (0) Spain [FT: 1-1. Italy on 4-2 on penalties AET]

Goalscorers: Italy – Chiesa (60′). Spain – Morata (80′)

Wembley Stadium, London

Jimmy Burns who wrote the book, La Roja: A Journey Through Spanish Football amongst other football titles of his, responded to a tweet from FBR summing up the game thus: “Spain last night  reminded us just what magical football its players are capable of. Memories of La Roja at its best.  No Italian player compared with the likes of Pedri, Busquets, and Olmo. Italians hacked. The Spanish delivered poetry in motion. Pity about the missed chances”

A pretty good summary in less that 300 words, and there are many things I agree with in his statement. The youthful skill of Pedri, Busquets vision and control in midfield and Olmo creative and full of energy were wonderful to behold. I’ve watched much of this tournament but probably for the first time, really came to appreciate the talents of players that don’t adorn the English Premier League. The Italians too played their part in which was during the ninety minutes of normal time, a fascinating and exhilarating watch.

The injured Leonardo Spinazzola on the left side was a great miss the Azzuri and Spain as they have in the competition dominated possession, which by the end of the game saw the Italians with just 30%. But as has been La Roja’s weakness, the chances created from that dominance, once again weren’t taken, with Oyarzabal missing one wonderful chance in each half, that will haunt him for the rest of his career. And as sure as Winter follows Autumn, Spain were punished on the hour mark. A brilliant counter-attack started from a roll-out by ‘keeper Donnarumma and was finished by a stunning curling effort from Chiesa. It looked as though this might be enough for Italy, but with ten minutes remaining, substitute Alvaro Morata calmy finished to level the scores.

Given the pace of the game it was no surprise that extra-time was an anti-climax, with Italy reverting to their defensive ways of old to ensure penalties. To return to Jimmy Burn’s point, this was where the Azzuri produced their box of tricks in stopping anything creative by Spain by whatever means. Interestingly though, the match stats show that whilst Italy 18 perpetrated fouls, Spain committed 17. Sometimes its just all about perception rather than logic.

For whatever reason though Italy just knew that if they got to penalties, that they would go through, even when Simón saved the Italians first spot-kick from Manuel Locatelli. Olmo, who had been outstanding for Spain, blasted their first penalty over the bar, and from then the Azzuri didn’t miss another, with Morata who looked as he walked up to have the troubles of the world on his shoulders, having his kick saved, giving Jorginho the opportunity to seal victory and progress to the Final.

Having seen the Italian’s play with a freedom in the group games, they have shown they can adapt to any match situation. A lack of possession doesn’t phase them, as they have incredible control at the back and the weapons to counter-attack in breath-taking style. It will take a wonderful performance from either England or Denmark to deny the Azzuri in the Final.


1983 European Qualifier: Match programme

England v Denmark (Wembley Stadium)

Well here we are again. Just five years on from the World Cup, the Three Lions once again take their place in the Semi-Finals of a major tournament. As a Fulham fan, I never dreamed I would see my team make a European Final, but that came true in the 2009/10 Europa League. And as an England fan, that dream of reaching a Final has been shattered competition after competition down the years, but now I hope and pray that the dream can finally be realised.

It was interesting to hear Jurgen Klinsmann before the Italy v Spain game talk about how perfect it had been for England up to this point, and how it will be interesting to see how the Three Lions would react if they went behind. There is a certain irony that England could exit be conceding just a single goal after five clean-sheets in this Euros, with echoes of England exiting the 1982 World Cup in 1982 without losing a game, still a vivid memory for many Three Lions fans.

Oh for another night like the Ukraine Quarter-Final. However, Denmark are a different creature, and this will be some battle. They have been magnificent in recovering from the horrors of the Christian Eriksen collapse and loses in their first two group games. The Danes are riding on a wave of national emotion and England will need an early goal to settle their nerves and put Denmark on the back foot.

Historically, the two teams have met 21 times, with England winning 12 times, Denmark victorious on 5 occasions and four draws. The first encounter was in 1948 which saw the game end 0-0, with the last in the Nations League at Wembley in October 2020, with the Danes winning 1-0 with a penalty from you guessed it, Christian Eriksen after Harry Maguire was sent-off in the first-half. That was the seventh time that the teams met at Wembley,  and it continued the trend of those games all ending 1-0. Unfortunately I was witness to one of those games in September 1983, when a first-half Allan Simonsen penalty won this European Qualifying Group game which cost the Three Lions a place at the Finals in France. The then England boss Sir Bobby Robson described it as “the blackest day of his career”.

Well if history is anything to go by, then it could be Denmark’s night with a first-half penalty enough to see them through. Of course, I hope this isn’t the case, but as England fans we all have seen it all before and now wait for the ninety nerve-shredding minutes to come.

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Posted July 7, 2021 by Editor in category "UEFA 2020 Euro Championship

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