It was one of the most heart pounding finals in Euro Cup history. The match between Italy and England was expected to be nothing less than a classic between two teams and countries where soccer is followed with religious fervor. The game was played on England’s home turf of Wembley Stadium in London, before a boisterous crowd. After England scored the earliest goal in Euro Cup finals history, only two minutes into the game, it took a massive effort for Italy to regain its composure. From the 22nd minute onward, Italy’s smothering defense and superb ball control set England back on its heels. Leonardo Bonucci, at age 34, became the oldest scorer during a Euro Cup final, when his goal for Italy came during the 67th minute of play. He temporarily silenced the highly partisan crowd of more than 60,000. The score remained tied at one apiece after regulation play and through two overtimes. It then all came down to penalty kicks, where the thrilling conclusion saw Azzurri goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma make dramatic stops in the shootout to win the cup 3-2. The 22-year-old now seems set to take the mantle of Italy’s star goalkeeper from arguably the greatest of all time, Gigi Buffon.
“It’s coming to Rome. It’s coming to Rome,” Bonucci shouted into a TV camera amid the celebrations. After the game, he infuriated English fans, suggesting that their team needs to eat more pasta next time. All of Italy celebrated as the Azzurri completed its long battle for the cup that began on March 23, 2019. During its run, Italy went 34-0 to secure its first Euro Cup in more than half a century. Although the team reached the semi-final in 2012, the last time that it won the UEFA European Championship was in 1968.
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 unbeaten run under Head Coach Roberto Mancini, who has won the international trophy in his first attempt to add to the country’s other European title and its four World Cups. Mancini joined his players on the podium as Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini and one of the heroes of the game, lifted the trophy to the backdrop of fireworks, tickertape and sheer jubilation.