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Italy clips Spain to make Euro finals via penalty shootout
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 07 - 07 - 2021

Italy held on grimly against an attacking Spain to enter the final of the UEFA Euro 2020 with a 4-2 victory on penalties after the sides stayed level at 1-1 after the regulation 90 minutes and extra time at Wembley.
Alvaro Morata who was Spain's hero when he scored the equalizer for Spain in the 80th minute, turned the villain when he missed the crucial spot-kick as Italy edged out Spain on penalties to reach the Euro 2020 final.
Italy, chasing a first European title since 1968, won 4-2 in the shoot-out though to secure a place in Sunday's final against either England or Denmark, who play on Wednesday, in London.
With this win, Roberto Mancini's side is unbeaten in 33 games — a national team record, and were deserving winners. They, however, could have been spared the shootout drama had the 111th minute Berardi strike had not been called offside.
Berardi beat Simon to the ball and prodded it home... but he's clearly offside and it's ruled out. Spain survived a scare but failed to survive the set pieces.
The drama continued with Italy's Locatelli missing the first strike, but Spain gifted the chance of going up away with Olmos ballooning his shot over. Italy then notched up the next three goals through Belotti, Bonucci and Bernardeschi as Spain trailed after missing two of the next three shots.
Moreno missed the second, but Thiago kept the Spanish hopes alive with a goal. But Morata missed the crucial set piece, and it was all over when Jorginho coolly stepped up to slot home the winner for a 4-2 winning aggregate.
It was a gripping goalless first half, with both sides playing at full intensity. Mikel Oyarzabal spurned a golden chance by miscontrolling the ball in the area after a fine threaded pass from Pedri, while Italy looked dangerous particularly through Nicolo Barella.
In the 60th minute a quick counter attack initiated by Donnarumma ended with Federico Chiesa curling a beautiful strike into the far corner of Unai Simon's net. The shot was just unstoppable.
With this goal, Chiesa became the first Italian player with multiple go-ahead goals in the Euro knockout stages (either at a single tournament or all-time). He also now has more Euro goals than his father Enrico Chiesa.
Italy's joy was short-lived as Spain roared back to level terms 20 minutes later with Morata finding the net. A fine one-two with Dani Olmo, Morata keeps his cool and slots it past Gigi Donnarumma with his left foot in the 80th minute.
Earlier, Italy beat the world's top-ranked team, Belgium, on their way to the semifinals. They beat Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in the group stage, but had to wait until extra time before beating Austria in the round of 16.
Spain had a close call in their round of 16 game against Croatia, letting a two-goal lead slip before restoring it in extra time.
They then beat Switzerland on penalties in the quarterfinals, amid an unconvincing attacking performance. Their only goal in that game before penalties was a Denis Zakaria own goal.
In the other semifinals on Wednesday, England takes on Denmark. England has been the team of the tournament so far. Yet to concede a goal, they have the best defensive record, and the goals have started flowing, with a thumping 4-0 win over Ukraine in the quarterfinals.
They also have home advantage with the final three games of the tournament being held at Wembley stadium. Many fans are starting to believe that this time, football really might be coming home.
But while the current tournament favorites are riding high, Denmark stand in their way of a place in the final. The Danes have surprised many by progressing this far, especially considering the shocking collapse of their star player Christian Eriksen in their opening game.
But despite losing twice during the group stages, they have managed to overcome Wales and the Czech Republic in the knockout stages. Furthermore, Denmark has a strong record against England in recent years. — Agencies


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