Italy is the 2020 (21) Euro Cup Champions!
A temporary victim of COVID-19, UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) kept the name Euro 2020 for a number of reasons, one being re-branding costs and another to maintain the integrity of its established four-year frequency. So, you have your 2020 Euro Champions crowned in 2021 which caused all sorts of social media confusion as hard-core football fans embraced 2020 and others sometimes used 2021 and other times succumbed to the pressure and went with the trending 2020. As the saying goes however, “a rose by any other name is still a rose” and the tournament was exactly that!
Italy who has now been finalists four times since the tournament started in 1960 (1968 vs Yugoslavia, 2000 vs France, 2012 vs Spain, and 2020 (21) vs England) hadn’t won since 1968 (52 years). That means they’ve appeared in 25% of the finals and have now won 12.5% of those finals. England has never won the tournament or been in the finals, although they have exclusively hosted it in 1996 and by chance in 2020 (21).
Italy came into the Euro Cup undefeated in 27 previous matches. They opened with a dominant 3-0 win over Turkey where they controlled the pace and tempo, to make it 28 undefeated. They extended the streak to 29 with another dominant 3-0 performance against Switzerland. In the final match of their group stage, Wales gave them an early test, but Italy came out on top 1-0 and took their streak to 30 games. They entered the Round of 16 with an opening elimination match against Austria and were tested with almost equal ball possession, passes, and accuracy, but managed to extend the streak to 31 with a 2-1 victory. As they moved on to the quarter finals against Belgium, they again lead ball possession, passes, accuracy, and shots and took those stats to a 2-1 victory and extended their streak to 32 games, but they worked harder for the win. Next came a really good Spain team (who’d won the tournament 2 of the last 3 times) in the semi-final and they took Italy to penalty kicks after controlling Italy in shots, possession, and passes, but Italy seemed to want to get to penalty kicks and showed a calm and confident approach led by team Captain Chiellini as they came out on top 4-2 and extended their streak to 33 games.
In the finals, Italy faced a team in England who was in love with the idea of being in the finals and came out feeding off the energy of a packed home-crowd in Wembley Stadium. On the heels of that energy, England scored in under three minutes, the fastest goal in Euro Cup history as Italy looked uncharacteristically disorganized. Italy would go on to receive five yellow cards, the most they’d seen in the tournament as they were aggressive in their play to even it up and also dominance again in shots, possession, passes, and accuracy. Their efforts led them to a second consecutive game in penalty kicks as Italians everywhere must have been rubbing their cornicello(s)! A cornicello is an Italian horn (a talisman of sorts) that is believed to bring good luck to its wearer and sometimes when pointed at the opposition, bad luck to them. It’s rare (and it may have never happened in Euro Cup history) to win back-to-back penalty kick games, but on this day, that is exactly what Italy did and extended their undefeated streak to 34 games as they were crowned champions.
While Italy was tested in a couple of games and showed signs of a maturing team who will learn from those experiences, they were mostly dominant and while they may have some veterans move on, they have a solid core group of players, including the player of the tournament, goalie Gianluigi Donnarumma as they prepare for the World Cup.
Congrats to England for a well-fought effort. Congrats to Italy for their 2nd Euro Cup Championship! As the saying goes, Forza Italia! Forza Azzuri! Forza Cornicello!
This is an opinion article by Guido Piraino of The Go On With Guido Podcast https://li.sten.to/GoOnWithGuido