As they say, when the final is knocking at the door, the Italians don’t usually miss it but always hold their nerves and find a way to feature in the final. In the knockout rounds of the mega-events, the Azzurri are a different kettle of fish – new crowd favourites may emerge but in the end, the torchbearers of the great predecessors always show their true colours when it matters the most.

Italy vs Spain is no less than a footballing festival. Italy did meet the Spanish in the same competition in the previous editions and enjoyed success until the great Spanish side of Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos unleashed a marvellous era. But it was the Italians who brought an end to the Spanish domination in the Euros and at Wembley, they bagged back to back wins in the knockout stages against Spain.

Luis Enrique made three changes to the team that started against Switzerland last time out. Garcia was brought in to partner Laporte in defence again, with Olmo and Oyarzabal, who have both made big impacts from the bench in recent games, also came in. Pau Torres and Morata drop to the bench, while Pablo Sarabia missed out with an abductor injury.

Roberto Mancini made just one change to his side after the win over Belgium, and it’s an enforced one. Leonardo Spinazzola was forced off in that game with an Achilles injury, so Emerson came in to replace him.

Wembley is the old cauldron of cliche.

The atmosphere was festive, ecstatic and electrifying with the Italian fans holding posters where it was written that football is not coming home but Rome!

The mood around the stadium was amazing as the ball rolled and it was Spain who were seen playing their style of football – more possession-based football with not enough target on the goal.

At the start, Spain were not dealing well against the high pressing of Italy, but as the match progressed, they settled and started to create spaces and stretch the Italian defence.

They painted a few triangles and slowly pushed Italy back. Then suddenly Busquets and Koke picked up the pace, and feed Cesar Azpilicueta down the right. The Chelsea captain took too long over his cross – and it was blocked.

Warning signs for Italy as Spain had targeted the left side of the pitch because Spinazzola was absent and it paid off.

Italy missed the intensity of Spinazzola badly.

Pedri fired a pass down the middle for Oyarzabal, who was free on the penalty spot, who failed to control it.

Torres latched onto a loose Barella ball in the centre circle, strode forward, tricked his way past Jorginho down the inside-left channel, and whistled a low drive wide left.

Olmo tried to release Torres down the inside-left channel with a back-heel, but Italy half cleared. Spain came again, through Oyarzabal on the right. His cross fell to Olmo, who barged through a Bonucci challenge and was clear on the penalty spot – He shot low left, but Donnarumma went down to clear.

Donnarumma’s awful clearance fell straight to Garcia in the centre circle.

Garcia returned it to Olmo on the edge of the Italian box.

Chiellini clattered him inside the D-box.

Olmo, again, reached the edge of the D-box before, with options on either side, sending a swerving shot over the bar.

Busquets and Pedri combined smoothly down the inside-left channel.

Pedri then slid a diagonal pass towards Oyarzabal, just to the right of the D-box.

Oyarzabal opted to take a first-time shot, aiming for a spectacular curler into the top-left. He targeted the top left, but only of the stand behind the goal. Full marks for the ambition, though, and it was a lovely sweeping move.

After the scoreless halftime, where Spain dominated, Italy decided to block the channels for Spain and caught them on the counter.

Oyarzabal and Olmo took turns to perform a couple of tricks down the right, and for a second nearly look like causing the Italian backline a bit of bother. But the gaps were quickly closed by the wily Azzurri.

Olmo crosses deep from the right. With Torres on his shoulder, Di Lorenzo did extremely well to volley out for a corner.

Oyarzabal found a little space, 25 yards out, and sent a rising shot towards the top right.

Donnarumma was behind it all the way, but it needed a safe pair of hands nonetheless.

Olmo caused all sorts of trouble on the edge of the Italian box, but Jordi Alba’s cross was picked off by Donnarumma and Italy countered immediately.

Marco Verratti made a good run down the left and slipped the infield for Ciro Immobile on the edge of the box. Laporte slid in to block. The ball broke left. Chiesa latched onto it, took a touch, and curled a stunner into the top right!

Wembley erupted.

Italy were thirty minutes away from glory and what they needed was to remain calm and composed, but Spain were not going to give up – they have fought against adversity to reach this far.

Luis Enrique’s men pushed up higher.

Koke, 25 yards out and a little to the left of centre, chipped a glorious ball over the Italian backline and down towards Oyarzabal on the penalty spot.

Any contact and he was surely flashing that into the net, but he made none!

Luis Enrique made his changes and it paid off.

The substitute Alvaro Morata shrugged off his hesitancy and made his way through the Italian defence, exchanging crisp passes with Olmo, and side-footed confidently into the bottom left with ten minutes remaining.

Big relief for Spain and the game went to extra-time.

Spain maintained their control over the ball but the Italian defence was hard to breach.

The fate of the firsts semifinal would be decided via spot-kicks.


Belotti and Moreno missed their opportunities and in the crucial juncture of the shootout Moarata missed one and it was left for Jorginho to seal the place in the final 0 he calmly beat Unai Simon and Italy maintain their unbeaten run.

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