When one of the youngest players in the Euro Championship final’s history, Bukayo Saka, squared off against Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma in the final shot of the penalty shootout, fifty years of championship pressure weighed on the teenager’s shoulders. Donnarumma slapped Saka’s shot aside, securing the championship for the Italian side after a tense two hours of football that was full of twists and drama.
England started strong, scoring the fastest goal in European finals history, with Luke Shaw scoring in just the second minute of the match. This opening strike was decisive for the first half of regular play, with England switching to a highly defensive playstyle that saw them fending off attacks throughout the first half.
However, after a dominant performance in the first half, things took a turn when the teams returned from halftime.
In the second half, Italy looked much more confident and much more dominant. Wembley, packed to the brim with England fans, got a firsthand look at just how the Italian team managed to push through to the Euro final throughout the tournament. Their extremely fast-paced playstyle and dominant ability to keep possession made them a terror, and they finally broke through with the equalizing goal from Leonardo Bonucci on a chaotic rebound during a rush on the goal.
Through both the second half and all thirty minutes of overtime, the rest of the game saw the two teams dead even. Every attempt by English striker Raheem Sterling was batted away by the Italian team’s positions. Meanwhile, England’s goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, made several critical stops to keep the score even through two hours of football.
Extra time ended with no winner declared, leading to the first-ever penalty shootout for the Euro final. The extremely tense shootout was itself the drama site: some players brought on specifically to score penalty kicks were unable to convert their attempts into the goal. Meanwhile, Italy’s best striker, Jorginho, was blocked by Pickford, leading to the pivotal final attempt from Saka.
Italy’s win was their first Euro championship since 1968. It’s been so long since they won that they’d taken home two World Cup trophies in the interim. England, meanwhile, was making its first-ever European finals appearance. While the English side was heartbroken by the outcome, Italy’s team and fans celebrated wildly after the final kick.
Italy’s Leonardo Bonucci had the final word, enthusiastically telling TV cameras that “It’s coming to Rome.”