Italy has for the first time since their 2006 World Cup triumph won a major trophy, a victory that wipes off the stains of missing the 2018 global showpiece in Russia.
A pulsating 90 minutes of football led to another foray of exchanges for 30 minutes making it a long European final night at football’s ‘home’, Wembley. Football has however refused to stay there but finds its way to the holy grounds of Rome having last being hosted over 1400 miles away in Lisbon, Portugal.
Before a ball was even kicked, there were messages of football finally coming home, a home that it has now rejected, leaving a dejected lot packed in a magnificent edifice that perfectly befits the status of the global favourite sport. It is not time to come home and the bed may have to remain dusty while it remains in the sojourn until the later hour.
Gareth Southgate-led Three Lions had a vocal crowd behind them in almost all their games having played only one of their six matches away from home. That was a concern for many teams as countries such as Wales had to play all their matches away from home. The advantage given to England and others irked many who argued that their road to the finals was aided purely by that unfair schedule.
Italy started the tournament in spectacular fashion by dispatching off Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in the group stage to secure a 100 per cent win rate. They continued their imperious form in the knockout stages by seeing off Austria, 2-1 and Belgium a pre-tournament favourite by the same margin to set up a date with Spain who they sent packing 4-2 on penalties having played out a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes.
England having played all their group games at Wembley saw off Croatia and the Czech Republic by a lone goal each sandwiching a 0-0 draw with Scotland. They then sent Joachim Low’s Germany home before adding Ukraine to their list of casualties and all that while not conceding a single goal. Denmark would however give them the scare of their lives before succumbing to a 2-1 defeat that sparked rage on both traditional and social media including some of Englands own over a dubious penalty call for \england late in the game.
The meeting between Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri and the Three Lions was thus a promising one as many asked if football will be at ‘Home’ or Rome. A Luke Shaw close-range effort inside two minutes after the start set up what would become an intense end-to-end exchange of creative artillery on the football field. The Azzurri’s determination to peg back finally came through when Leonardo Bonnuci was at hand to kick the ball into the net in the 67th minute following a scramble inside the English box.
As both sides searched for the winner, the clock ticked on and extra 30 minutes of football was a necessity after neither could get the winner in normal time. Penalties were then the obvious option to decide where football belongs when no winner came after 120 minutes of action.
Andrea Belotti saw his penalty saved by Jordan Pickford and England took the lead from there but after Bonnuci levelled for the Azzurri, Marcus Rashford, and Manchester United bound Jadon Sancho both missed presenting Chelsea penalty specialist Jorginho the chance to win it for Italy. But even the best from the 12 yards do have their bad days too and his kick was saved by Pickford. Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka then failed to beat Donnaruma from 12 yards sending the trophy away from home and all the way to Rome.
It is a deserving success for the Azzurri and as for England, the wait continues and until next time, football is at Rome and not back home yet.