Euro 2020: Brave Italy, cowardly England got what they deserved

Italy are worthy champions; they've been Euro 2020's best team

A brave Italy earned a Wembley victory over a cowardly England, who took the lead in the second minute but succumbed in the shoot-out, having got to penalties after playing much of the game camped in their own box. We witnessed the curious case of two stars, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who hadn’t played and were brought on in the 120th minute for the shoot-out, both missing their kicks. Poetic justice. It was a miss-heavy shoot-out in which Italy failed twice, but England came up short three times, leaving us with a worthy Euro 2020 winner. Italy were the most convincing team at the tournament and their trophy triumph reflects well on Spain, who were the only side who gave them a proper run for their money.

The contrast in Italy and England’s styles really was quite striking. It reminded me of an article former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in El País some years ago, in which he posited that countries play football in the same way they approach war and politics. Italy, he said, played with prudence and more than a hint of the Machiavellian; the English, with a thunderous passion for attack. That’s the way it was then - but, despite England’s quickfire opener, it’s clearly no longer the case. When Luke Shaw met Kieran Trippier’s cross with an unstoppable shot, rounding off a fine move that began on the left, advanced on the right and returned to the left, it seemed like we were watching a traditionally English performance.

England were only interested in defending

But after a period on the ropes, Italy hit back. First with individual attempts by Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa, then with good collective play aided by an England side that dropped ever deeper. All they wanted to do was defend. Italy probed every way they could before getting themselves level midway through the second half. They merited more than just the one goal, but had to wait until the shoot-out to get their just deserts. I have to say I was pleased to see Italy win, not only because of my general affection for the country, but also because their commitment to playing an expansive game was as worthy of reward as England’s commitment to the opposite was not. Italy got what their bravery deserved.