Luke Shaw’s goal inside the opening two minutes gave England a lead it looked like it would hold onto all night, before a goalmouth scramble midway through the second half allowed Leonardo Bonucci to poke home an equalizer for Italy.
For the remainder of the match it felt as though extra-time and penalties were inevitable, as neither side seemed willing or brave enough to commit enough men forward to really trouble the opposing defenders.
England had suffered innumerable heartbreaks on penalties over the years and this time it was Italy’s turn to inflict yet more pain on beleaguered English fans as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all missed from the spot.
During the wild Italian celebrations, Bonucci — who had been immense all night and rightly earned the man of the match award — screamed “it’s coming to Rome” into the pitch side camera to rub yet more salt into the wounds of English fans.
England’s wait to end its wretched run in major international competitions, stretching all the way back to 1966, will go for at least another year until the World Cup is hosted in Qatar.
Few would have expected Italy to reach the final prior to the start of Euro 2020, much less win the entire competition, but Roberto Mancini’s side quickly established itself as one of the contenders after three thrilling group stage performances.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy’s hero in the penalty shootout with two fine saves, was deservedly named the player of the tournament and the goalkeeper heads up a group of talented stars that should ensure this side remains competitive for the foreseeable future.
As for England, this defeat is likely to sting for quite some time to come for players and fans alike, but the squad at least has the consolation of knowing it has provided the country with a tournament run not seen for more than five decades.
More to follow…