Italy were never thought to be among the favorites for Euro 2020.
Fellow finalists England were highly rated because of their home advantage, whilst France and Portugal were World and European champions respectively going into the competition. Belgium’s golden generation was perhaps at their peak for their final tournament, with the Azzurri expected to make the quarterfinals, at best.
However, from the first game in which they destroyed Turkey, many saw their potential. A confident style of play saw them sweep into attacking positions with ease, whilst a centre-back pairing with a combined age of 70 proved to be almost impenetrable. Within a month, they went from outsiders to the champions of Europe. They beat hosts England 3-2 on penalties after a tense final in which they dominated their hosts and fought back from going a goal down inside two minutes. It was described as a ‘soccer redemption’ by CBS News, and rightly so; it came just three years after failing to qualify for the World Cup
The future is bright for Roberto Mancini’s men, and here are the key figures that broke England’s hearts in their own stadium and stole the limelight for themselves.
Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci
Italy didn’t concede many goals during the tournament, and the pairing of Chiellini and Bonucci was right at the forefront of those shutouts. Both play domestic football for Juventus and are a solid defensive unit for Italy. Chiellini is a master of psychology, a man who understands the game’s dark arts and its beauty. Bonucci made sure his name was in the record books too, grabbing the leveller in the final, which sent the game to penalties. Sadly, both are in the latter stages of their career and will have to be replaced. A Bwin infographic shows how Juventus successfully recycled much of their old guard in 2017/18, but can they do it again? The big question for Roberto Mancini coming out of the tournament is: can Italy do the same? For now, the focus won’t be on the future, but the fine input both had on Euro 2020.
23-year-old Chiesa comes from an excellent footballing family – his father Enrico won two European trophies in club football with Sampdoria and Parma. Federico has already gone one further in winning an international competition, as well as racking up more caps than his father. He will win plenty more on his showing in Euro 2020 too; he was unplayable at times. He has pace and tenacity, strength on the ball and a keen eye for a long-range effort. He’s currently on a two-year loan deal with Juventus and represents the future, aiding any rebuild they require. The agreed fee with his previous employer, Fiorentina, is €40m plus another €10m in add ons, and on this form, he’s likely to be worth twice that. Indeed, it is reported that Liverpool have been quoted €90m this month.
Behind every great team, there is a world-class goalkeeper, and 22-year-old Paris Saint Germain stopper Donnarumma is without a doubt the best in the world right now. He’s a towering 6ft 5in tall but an outstanding shot-stopper who saved two of England’s three missed penalties in the final. He’s already played 215 times for AC Milan but has now left on a free transfer, according to Sport Bible, in search of domestic success. There’s no doubt he was a huge part of Italy’s success, literally and metaphorically, and he’s on course to become part of Azzurri legend, in the same way as Dino Zoff, Gianluigi Buffon, and Walter Zenga have before him.
Had the Roma left-back not been injured in the quarterfinal against Belgium, he would have been a contender for Player of the Tournament. His road to fame has been a long one – he spent seven years on the books of Juventus without breaking through, spending time on loan in the lower divisions with Empoli, Virtus Lanciano, Siena, Vicenza and Perugia. He moved to Atalanta in Serie A on loan in 2016 and has since kicked on. He made his international debut in 2017 and now has 18 caps to his name. The sight of him, on crutches, celebrating the final win was heart-warming for all and a reflection of Euro 2020s success against adversity in one magical moment.