Shomporko Online News Desk: Gianluigi Donnarumma saved two England penalties en route to a 3-2 shootout victory after the teams fought out a 1-1 extra-time stalemate at a boisterous Wembley on Sunday.
After Marcus Rashford struck the post, the gigantic keeper saved Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, while Federico Bernardeschi, Leonardo Bonucci, and Domenico Berardi all scored for the Italians.
England had gotten off to a dream start when Luke Shaw scored after just two minutes, but Italy, who had provided almost little reaction in the first half, gradually took control as the hosts sat back and leveled through Bonucci after 67 minutes.
It was the first final to be decided on penalties since Czechoslovakia beat West Germany in 1976 and will be wildly celebrated in Italy after they lost in the final in 2000 and 2012.
They made most of the running after halftime and in extra time and England can have few complaints after their early promise faded away.
It was nevertheless heartbreaking for most of the 67,000 Wembley crowd as England came up short in their first major final since they won the World Cup 55 years ago.
It had all started so well when Harry Kane spread the ball wide to Kieran Trippier and he instantly repaid coach Gareth Southgate’s faith in recalling him by sending over a curling deep cross that the fast-arriving Shaw met on the half volley to hammer inside the post for his first international goal.
England had taken an early lead in their 2018 World Cup semi-final against Croatia before eventually being outplayed and beaten in extra time, but they did not look like giving up the initiative on home soil, playing on the front foot, though failing to threaten Donnarumma.
England keeper Jordan Pickford was similarly untroubled as Federico Chiesa’s crisp shot went just wide and Ciro Immobile’s blocked effort was all Italy had to show for a disjointed half.
England’s well-drilled defense, which had conceded just one goal, via a Danish free-kick, in their six previous tournament games, held them at arm’s length and Italian frustration was summed up by center back Bonucci letting fly wildly from 35 meters with the last kick of the half – much to the disgust of his teammates.
Pickford was called into action after 57 minutes, blocking a Lorenzo Insigne shot and then getting down to palm away from Chiesa as Italy began to apply pressure, pinning England back.
When Bonucci pounced from close range after Pickford had turned Andrea Belotti’s header onto the post, it paid off handsomely.
England had no complaints, having essentially encouraged their opponents on and offering little nothing offensively, and they would have been relieved to go into extra time.
In the first 15 minutes of extra time, it was a similar tale, though England did momentarily claw their way back into the game in the second term, albeit without either side producing anything to repay the fans for their raucous applause.
So it came down to penalties when England’s young guns fell short and Italy triumphed.