Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Italy's midfielder Matteo Pessina poses with the European Championship trophy after Italy won the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match between Italy and England at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021.

LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/AFP/Getty Images

Italian soccer’s redemption story is complete. England’s painful half-century wait for a major title goes on.

And it just had to be because of a penalty shootout.

Italy won the European Championship for the second time by beating England 3-2 on penalties on Sunday. The match finished 1-1 after extra time at Wembley Stadium, which was filled mostly with English fans hoping to celebrate the team’s first international trophy since the 1966 World Cup.

Story continues below advertisement

Instead, just utter dejection again – they know the feeling so well – after Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy’s imposing goalkeeper, dived to his left and saved the decisive spot kick by 19-year-old Londoner Bukayo Saka, one of the youngest players in England’s squad.

It was England’s third straight failure from the penalty spot in the shootout, with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho – players brought on late in extra time seemingly as specialist penalty-takers – also missing.

As Saka and Sancho cried, Donnarumma was mobbed by his teammates as they sprinted toward him from the halfway line after the second penalty shootout in a European Championship final.

They then headed to the other end of the field and ran as one, diving to the ground in front of the Italian fans who have witnessed a rebirth of their national team.

It was less than four years ago that Italy plunged to the lowest moment of its soccer history by failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. Now, they are the best team in Europe and on a national-record 34-match unbeaten run under Roberto Mancini, their suave coach who has won an international trophy in the first attempt to add to the country’s other European title – in 1968 – and its four World Cups.

For England, it’s the latest heartache in shootouts at major tournaments, after defeats in 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2012. They ended that losing streak by beating Colombia on penalties in the round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup, but the pain has quickly returned.

“The boys couldn’t have given more,” England captain Harry Kane said. “Penalties are the worst feeling in the world when you lose. It’s been a fantastic tournament – we should be proud, hold our heads up high. It’s going to hurt now, it’s going to hurt for a while.”

Story continues below advertisement

It had all started so well for England, too, with Luke Shaw scoring the fastest goal in a European Championship final by meeting a cross from opposite wing back Kieran Trippier with a half-volley that went in off the post in the second minute.

It was Shaw’s first goal for England and it prompted a fist-pump between David Beckham and Tom Cruise in the VIP box amid an explosion of joy around Wembley, which had at least 67,000 fans inside. Maybe more, given dozens of ticketless England fans managed to barge their way past stewards and police and into the stadium in unsettling scenes before kickoff.

That was the only time Italy’s famously robust defence was really opened up in the entire 120 minutes.

Indeed, after Shaw’s goal, England barely saw the ball for the rest of the game.

Italy’s midfielders dominated possession, as widely predicted before the match, and England simply resorted to dropping deep and getting nine or even all 10 outfield players behind the ball. It was reminiscent of the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, when England also scored early against Croatia then spent most of the game chasing its opponent’s midfield before losing in extra time.

Italy’s equalizer was merited and Leonardo Bonucci was the unlikely scorer. He put the ball in from close range after a right-wing corner was flicked on to Marco Verratti, whose stooping header was tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Story continues below advertisement

England managed to hold on for extra time – the way three of the last six European finals went – and actually had the better of the final stages.

Just not the shootout, again.

After the misses of Rashford – he stuttered up to the ball and then hit the post – and Sancho, whose shot was saved by Donnarumma again down to his left, Jorginho had the chance to win it for Italy.

Incredibly, the midfielder who converted the decisive penalty in a shootout win over Spain in the semi-finals also failed to score as Pickford tipped the effort off the post.

Instead, it was Donnarumma who made the crucial saves and within minutes he had also been named player of the tournament, the first goalkeeper to be so honoured.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies