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Italy beats England in shootout to win European Championship

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Italy’s Leonardo Bonucci celebrates with this teammates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the Euro 2020 soccer final match between England and Italy at Wembley stadium in London today.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Italy’s Leonardo Bonucci celebrates with this teammates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the Euro 2020 soccer final match between England and Italy at Wembley stadium in London today.

Celebrations erupted in downtown Rome as thousands of people took to the streets after Italy beat England in a penalty shootout to win the European Championship at Wembley Stadium in London.

Fireworks lit the sky as cars honked non-stop and ecstatic fans waving Italian flags spilled out of the Piazza del Popolo where they had watched the match on big screens.

They chanted “we are champions of Europe,” danced in the streets and set off flares as police stood watch nearby.

Riot police had to disperse crowds outside Wembley after the match. Beer bottles were thrown and police were standing by as England fans are chanted songs against Italy.

London police said there had been 45 arrests by officers policing the final.

The final was decided on penalty kicks after the match finished with England and Italy tied at 1-1 , which was filled mostly with English fans hoping to celebrate the team’s first international trophy since the 1966 World Cup.

Italy had a chance for a winner in the 107th minute when England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford bobbled a swerving free kick from substitute Federico Bernardeschi, but he eventually gathered it.

Domenico Berardi, Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Bernardeschi scored for Italy in the shootout and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made two saves at the end of the shootout.

It was England’s third straight failure from the penalty spot in the shootout, with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho — players brought on late in extra time seemingly as specialist penalty-takers — also missing.

It was less than four years ago that Italy plunged to the lowest moment of its soccer history by failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. Now, they are the best team in Europe and on a national-record 34-match unbeaten run under Roberto Mancini, their suave coach who has won an international trophy in the first attempt to add to the country’s other European title — in 1968 — and its four World Cups.

For England, it’s the latest heartache in shootouts at major tournaments, after defeats in 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2012. They ended that losing streak by beating Colombia on penalties in the round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup, but the pain has quickly returned.

“The boys couldn’t have given more,” England captain Harry Kane said. “Penalties are the worst feeling in the world when you lose. It’s been a fantastic tournament — we should be proud, hold our heads up high. It’s going to hurt now, it’s going to hurt for a while.”

It had all started so well for England, too, with Luke Shaw scoring the fastest goal in a European Championship final by meeting a cross from opposite wing back Kieran Trippier with a half-volley that went in off the post in the second minute.

It was Shaw’s first goal for England and it prompted a fist-pump between David Beckham and Tom Cruise in the VIP box amid an explosion of joy around Wembley, which had at least 67,000 fans inside. Maybe more, given dozens of ticketless England fans managed to barge their way past stewards and police and into the stadium in unsettling scenes before kickoff.

That was the only time Italy’s famously robust defense was really opened up in the entire 120 minutes.

Indeed, after Shaw’s goal, England barely saw the ball for the rest of the game.

Italy’s midfielders dominated possession, as widely predicted before the match, and England simply resorted to dropping deep and getting nine or even all 10 outfield players behind the ball. It was reminiscent of the 2018 World Cup semifinals, when England also scored early against Croatia then spent most of the game chasing its opponent’s midfield before losing in extra time.

Italy’s equalizer was merited and Leonardo Bonucci was the unlikely scorer. He put the ball in from close range after a right-wing corner was flicked on to Marco Verratti, whose stooping header was tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

England managed to hold on for extra time — the way three of the last six European finals went — and actually had the better of the final stages.

Just not the shootout, again.

Prince William congratulated Italy after the match, saying England’s players should be “so proud” of themselves for their efforts.

William is the president of the English Football Association. He wrote on Twitter “Heartbreaking. Congratulations Azzurri on a great victory.”

He said to England: “sadly this time it wasn’t our day. You can all hold your heads high.”

Italy earned 34 million euros ($40.4 million) in prize money from UEFA’s tournament record fund of 371 million euros ($440 million) for winning this year’s championship. England will get 30.25 million euros ($36 million).

This year’s European Championship has been the highest scoring edition in the tournament’s modern era. Leonardo Bonucci’s 67th-minute goal for Italy in the final was the 142nd of the 51-game tournament. That’s an average of 2.79 goals per game; it was only 2.12 per game at Euro 2016.

The most goals in a modern edition was the average of 2.74 at Euro 2000. There were 31 games at that tournament. Previously, there were higher goals per game averages when tournaments involved only four teams from 1960 to 1976.

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo finished as the top scorer with five goals. He had the same number of goals as Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick, but the Portuguese great will get the award because he had an assist.

Portugal was eliminated from the tournament after losing to Belgium 1-0 in the round of 16.

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