The semi-finals of Euro 2020 started at Wembley Tuesday night, with Italy and Spain both hungry for a place in the final coming Sunday.
Four changes in general between the two teams from their last matches against Belgium and Switzerland respectively. The most notable changes from both sides were Emerson, who replaced Spinazzola for Italy, and one omission of center-forward Alvaro Morata by Luis Enrique. Spain started the game without a recognized No. 9.
Italy dominated the first five minutes and hit the post before 4 minutes had passed. An accurate pass down the left wing of Chelsea’s Emerson found a waving Barella who took it around the Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simon and tried to curl it around and round the goalkeeper but could only find the post.
This seemed to wake the Spaniards from their early doze, subsequently controlling them for the next 15 minutes. Despite control, no clear chances followed for Spain, only a number of half chances and a free kick.
As 31 minutes rolled around, Italy was not yet to register a shot at the Spanish goal; their longest waiting time for such an event at the championship really the epitome of control of the Spanish midfield over the Italians.
A midfield struggling half ended with an Italian chance kissing the crossbar. Insigne drove towards the penalty area and dismissed Emerson on the overlapping run, which also ran along the finish line and fired a shot away. Unfortunately for the Spaniard and his teammates, it sailed over Simon in goal and squeezed the crossbar on the way. The break ended goalless between the Wembley bows.
The second half began with great chances at both ends. Cesar Azpilicueta unleashed a swerving effort from the right that the visitors’ keeper did well to tip wide. The first strike, however, was driven across the line.
8 minutes later came the Italian chance on a quick counterattack. Goalkeeper Donnarumma played the ball down the field, Laporte slipped in to prevent the ball from coming forward, but his last tackle could only end up finding Chiesa’s feet curling the ball beautifully around Simon and into the right side of goal. Italy led at Wembley.
Immediately after the goal, Morata was introduced to the game for Ferran Torres as the Spaniards became desperate for an equalizer. Just 5 minutes after the goal, Koke intercepted a clearing from Beradi and steered a cross towards a delayed running Oyarzabal who completely missed the ball.
A huge chance that missed the side in white from what looked like a particular equalizer.
After 10 minutes, Morata came in from the right, feinted, then sped past the off-balance defender to make the score 1 – 0, giving Olmo the lead. Olmo stepped through Morata one by one with Donnarumma placing the ball in the bottom left corner and sending the Italian goalkeeper the wrong way. An equalizer for the Spaniards. 1-1.
This goal caused a chaotic, open finish to 90 minutes. Both sides had counterattacks, but neither country could exploit magic in possession. After 90 + 3 minutes, it took another 30 minutes for extra time to separate the teams.
Extra time (ET)
A cagey opening a few minutes extra time finally produced an opening. Olmo won a free kick on the left wing after a clumsy challenge with the arm from Toloi. Freekick was a low, powerful into the path of Donnarumma, who could only palm it in a sea of bodies. Morata eventually took authority, collected the ball, shot, but the ball bounced between the players from both sides and bounced off a goal kick.
The rest of the first half of ET was all over Spain with opportunities coming through a Llorente cross and Olmo drove and tried to play Morata through; the pass had too much weight on it, but one rolled through to Donnarumma.
110 minutes into the game, Chiellini seemed a little tentative in their play as their organization fell to passable. He brought the ball down with his first touch, hit Simon to the ball and slipped and fired a shot towards goal that put it in the back of the net. Celebrations were absent, however, as offside flags are immediately raised. A departure for Spain and destruction for Italy. There was 10 minutes of extra time left.
Jorginho played a long ball forward against Belotti, who drove to the right of Bernardeschi forward, but the pass got the back of Laporte’s foot cut. It was the last real chance for both sides in extra time.
Sanctions were required.
Italy got the first penalty kick, Locatelli took, but was saved! Unai Simon dove to his right and dove the right way. Nightmare start for Italy in shootout.
However. Dani Olmo ran the ball over the line in an attempt to hit the long-arm Donnarumma. 0-0 after 1 penalty per. Piece.
Belotti stepped up next time and scored for Italy, pulling it low into the side netting over a stretched Simon.
Moreno took Spain’s second and scored Spain’s second. He just managed to place it outside the keeper. 1-1
Bonucci for Italy scored on the left and Thiago for Spain scored on the right. 2-2 in shootout after three penalties.
Bernardeschi then stepped up and rifled the ball into the top right corner. However, Morata could not hide his penalty kick for Spain! The Spanish striker takes a bad, weak penalty and is easily covered by Donnarumma. Italy led 3-2.
Jorghino was to take the final penalty for Italy and send the Italians to the final. And after a jump, leap and a leap, he calmly sent the ball down into the bottom right corner. He ran away to celebrate and a sea of Italian players and staff followed and flooded the pitch.
Italy participates in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final and plays the winner of England vs Denmark on Wednesday.
However, Spain can keep their heads high. They were not expected to be a semi-final team at this tournament, and in a generation of reconstruction, the Spaniards may go home disappointed in what could have been, but still not unhappy with their campaign as a whole.