Euro 2020: Like Italy, England showed they'll do whatever it takes to win

Both of Sunday's Euro 2020 finalist found it hard work to get the better of their semi-final opponents, writes John Roycroft
Euro 2020: Like Italy, England showed they'll do whatever it takes to win

Denmark players surround the referee Danny Makkelie after they are given a penalty against them during the UEFA Euro 2020 semi-final.

NOW that the excitement of the semi-finals have concluded and we now know our two finalists for Sunday night, we are left with one remaining burning question. How does James Jerry Mike from Annascaul continue to get tickets for premium sporting events around the world?

Kerry and FAI jerseys in the crowd aside, Tuesday night's semi-final between Spain and Italy was another pleasurable match in this tournament jam-packed with memorable games.

In the end, it was unfortunate to see the exit of Spain, who went from a shaky start (in the tournament) to arguably the better side in the quarter-final. They really put it up to the Italians, pressuring the Azzurri whenever the Italians had possession, attacking in swarms when they had possession, then retreating in compact order to defend when required. 

Italy's Federico Chiesa celebrates scoring their side's goal against Spain.
Italy's Federico Chiesa celebrates scoring their side's goal against Spain.

For most of the game, the Italians could not move the ball out of their own half, such was the pressure the Spaniards mounted in defence. Indeed, the Spanish out Italianed the Italians with their high up-field pressure while still not sacrificing their defensive shape at the back.

It was also clear that the Italians were missing the influence of their injured talismanic wing-back Leonardo Spinazzola. His absence played a major role in the Italians strange lack of confidence in playing out of defence, which has served them so well so far this tournament. But to be fair, the Spanish pressure played a significant part in this Italian failure, especially in the first half.

Spinazzola absence left a big gap in midfield to bridge the play between defence and the attack and, in the end, the Italians were forced to bypass midfield and lob balls into the frontmen of Immobile, Insigne, and Chiesa with varying degrees of success. High balls into the nimble but 5' 3" Insigne is pointless and it showed. But wide balls to Chiesa proved a lot more fruitful and it was not surprising that it was he that made the breakthrough, against the run of play, for Italy's opener.

It is never easy to knock Italy off a one-goal lead but Spain kept at it and it was also nice to see the much-maligned and obviously out of confidence, Álavaro Morata put the Spanish equaliser away with some finesse. Even giving the Italian keeper the 'eyes' to send him the wrong way.

However, it was just as sad, that after getting that excellent goal it had to be him that missed the crucial penalty in the shootout. Like Mbappe's miss for France, you just knew Morata was not in the right mind to take the spotter.

Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, right, makes a save against Spain's Alvaro Morata during the penalty shootout of the Euro 2020  semi-final match at Wembley Stadium in London, Picture: Andy Rain/Pool via AP
Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, right, makes a save against Spain's Alvaro Morata during the penalty shootout of the Euro 2020  semi-final match at Wembley Stadium in London, Picture: Andy Rain/Pool via AP

That Spain went to three extra times in a row exposed their weakness. Despite having the majority of possession in all their games, and the best of the play against Italy, their forwards just could not put away their chances. Hilariously in the case of the balloon shots from Oyarzabal and Olmo that may still be bouncing down the Wembley Way.

Coach Luis Enrique's choice not to bring any Real Madrid players may, in the long run, have cost them dearly in attack when they needed a surprise from someone, maybe like Isco or Marco Asensio.

Well, that's a battle to be played out on the pages of the Spanish football press no doubt. For now, the Italians need to brush themselves off and prepare for a final with England.

England's Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson celebrate winning their UEFA Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark at Wembley Stadium, London. 
England's Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson celebrate winning their UEFA Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark at Wembley Stadium, London. 

Coming Home

For the first time in the tournament, the English finally got a test from a side well-organised and determined to win. Denmark's passing and confidence on the ball, especially in the first half was admirable. It was hard to believe they were the same side that the Republic has played so often against in recent years. Credit to England, they showed their resolve to get back in it after going a goal behind, something they had yet to experience here, and they kept up the pressure for the vast majority of the match.

The frenetic pace of the Premier League stood to England, who looked the better-conditioned side and still full of running even well into extra time. They essentially wore down the Danes despite the Nordic side's better ball skills.

The winning goal came from a controversial penalty decision, and while some are outraged by it, it is just a part of the game. Raheem Sterling sensed the presence of the contact in the box and went down winning the penalty. Many sides over the years have won such spot-kicks for their sides at crucial moments.

What I would like to see after this, is that the pundits and English media alike would finally end their message that diving is some sort of failing pertinent only to 'Johnny Foreigner' and that 'our boys' are full of some Corinthian spirit that would never stoop to such levels of cheating.

It's clear, the English will perform the dark arts to get what they want. Heaven forbid that England's sporting commentary would accept that their players are as susceptible to cheating, same as anyone else.

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