Italy wrecked England’s Euro 2020 party at Wembley on Sunday, winning the final on penalties to plunge the host nation into despair and prolong their 55-year wait to win a major title.
Roberto Mancini’s men recovered from the shock of conceding the quickest goal ever in a European Championship final to equalise and held their nerve to claim a 3-2 shootout victory.
“We did well,” Mancini told RAI Sport. “We conceded a goal straight away and struggled, but then we dominated the game.
The partisan crowd was whipped up to a state of fever pitch by rousing renditions of “Three Lions” and “Sweet Caroline” before kick-off.
Gareth Southgate’s team were ahead in just the second minute when defender Luke Shaw finished coolly at the back post after an inviting cross from the recalled Kieran Trippier.
In steady rain, the crowd provided a relentless wall of noise as the home side repelled Italy’s attacks and threatened to increase their lead.
But minutes later they were level when Leonardo Bonucci scrambled the ball into the net from close range after England failed to clear.
With four minutes remaining of normal time a pitch invader stopped the action and stewards struggled to catch him adding to a sense of chaos at the stadium after ticketless fans earlier forced their way in.
Pickford saved spot-kicks from Andrea Belotti and Jorginho but Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all failed to find the net.
– Fan frenzy –
But as the start neared, the climate became tense, with thousands crammed into the pedestrianised Wembley Way, strewn with broken glass.
Footage posted on social media showed hundreds of supporters battling to get past lines of stewards and police, trying to force their way through security cordons and scaling walls.
Police said in a statement that a “breach of security… resulted in a small number of people getting into the stadium without a ticket” but the number appeared to swell the official crowd significantly.
Revitalised since Mancini took over after their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the Azzurri were on a remarkable 33-match unbeaten run leading into the final.
Southgate has revolutionised English football since taking charge in 2016, leading his team to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, where they were beaten by Croatia but they fell just short at Wembley.
Southgate said it was his decision to put Arsenal teenager Saka as his team’s final penalty taker
“We decided to make the changes at the end of the game, but we win or lose together as a team.”
Health experts have expressed concerns about Euro 2020 events becoming super-spreaders throughout the tournament, especially in Britain and Russia.