SO, MY beloved Italian side got over the line in the end, and most football fans are glad to see that they were rewarded, in the end, for their very un-Italian progressive and attacking style. They were the side of the tournament and deserved the triumph.
Sure, they made hard work of it, especially against Spain in the semis and against England in the final. The Azzurri definitely missing the controlling influence of Leonardo Spinazzola in midfield.
Also, the 'collar test' on Bukayo Sako's shirt by Giorgio Chiellini was very unsporting and left a bad taste in the mouth especially as it came from arguably the best and most likeable player in the entire competition.
Chiellini can count himself lucky that he committed the foul so close to the halfway line otherwise I'm sure he would have seen red.
His and Jorginho over the ball 'studding' of Jack Grealish showed that the dark arts still live on, even in the heart of this progressive Italian side.
England, while obviously devastated by another shootout exit, have the consolation of making the final and defying most people's predictions. Sure they had the easier path to the final but a team can only beat the opposition in front of them and they did that well, only conceding two goals along the way.
It was telling that the two sides to make the final represented the two countries worst hit by Covid-19 in Europe. After the devastation wrought by the pandemic over the past 19 months, we hope that the run to the final lifted some of the understandable gloom that must have befallen the two nations.
The final itself, while not the best game of the tournament, was nevertheless still full of intensity and drama. As is so often the case in a final, the fear of not wanting to lose made it a cagey affair. Even so, the first 20 minutes of the first half was maybe England's best play of the tournament, topped off by a brilliant goal by Luke Shaw. If they could have maintained that tempo who knows what might have happened?
Neither side dominated the chances even though Italy's possession stats had to pay off.
Gareth Southgate deserved the plaudits for his cool and professional handling of the team and even more so of the media. But I will never understand his selection for the shootout. He took off Jordan Henderson, a regular penalty-taker with Liverpool, with seconds left, to replace him with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho for Kyle Walker.
While Rashford has experience of spot-kicks at Man United, he was not up to the speed of the game, yet then expected to step up and score his penalty. He and Sancho are both young, inexperienced of such responsibility at this level (especially Sancho) and coming on cold. It was no way surprising that they missed their spotters. This was then compounded by having an even younger man in Sako then having to save England's final hopes with his penalty. Even if someone more experienced broke up the lineup of the three young players to settle things down it might have helped. But to have a 19-year old as your number five penalty-taker seemed naive in the extreme from Southgate.
Every country has their share of these morons but somehow this thuggery seems exaggerated in the English context.
Their actions now seriously puts England's bid for the 2030 World Cup in jeopardy. If the FA and Wembley show they cannot guarantee the security of a tournament event at European level then what hope at a World Cup standard.
It is one thing if this just affects England but it must be remembered that the 2030 bid is a joint bid with Ireland. It would be crushing to miss out on a World Cup down to the actions of these idiots. Especially when we already missed out on hosting our own games in this Euro 2020 due to Covid.