Italy defeated Spain with a classic defensive approach
Jorginho’s penalty kick was heartless. Cracked. Contrary to what you might expect. Calcio as art.
It was all the Italians had with a grin into the Euro 2020 final, burying their feet and sucking off Spain’s storm surge until only they were at Wembley after 120 minutes and a shootout.
Sorry you thought Spain “deserves” to go through it? Because they nudge more than they torment with their passing, thereby creating better chances? Maybe like this.
Earning has nothing to do with it.
This wasn’t the Italy that restarted after missing the 2018 World Cup, dismantling the Serie A youth development factories and finally tolerating mistakes in order to develop a team that is clear with its pressure and enthusiasm while keeping its back strong. That was old Italy, which devoted itself to defending against door bolts for nearly a century, groaned as if it had won four world titles. That was strict Italy, disinterested in the opportunities that might have been had and the perception beyond the cold, hard numbers on the scoreboard.
It always had to be like that. Each game is self-contained, with its own mini-actions and reactions, but the Spaniards have undoubtedly found a different gear since the end of the group stage. They wanted the ball, they wanted to keep the ball, they wanted to pin Italy down and they wanted to threaten the goal. Deal with it.
Italy did. It’s impressive (and strangely comforting) that Italians still have this club in their pockets. Name the timeless center-back duo Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, but don’t reduce it to just them either. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, perhaps the best in the world in his position and the showpiece of the ongoing defensive renovation of Paris Saint-Germain, was only taken by Serenity of the galaxy class by partlvaro Morata and made several crucial saves. Left-back Emerson Palmieri replaced Leonardo Spinazzola, one of the breakout stars of the tournament, who injured his Achilles in the last round, no doubt thanks in part to the nerves he calmed down in the final group game.
Coach Roberto Mancini rested several starters against Wales that day, although the promotion is already certain. He’s pushed all the right buttons, not just for these euros, but since he took office three years ago. Mancini built a reputation for business-like tactics early in his career, but with Italy he took that organization further up. He’s also made debuts to tons of players, somewhat for practical reasons as the program was stagnant. However, when Mancini hinted at deviating approach against Spain in order to reach the final, was there a chance for this reshaped squad? would not Listen to him
Make no mistake, Italy suffered as a result. Ownership was 70-30 Spain. Passes completed were almost 3-to-1. It’s exhausting to peel like this.
When it got light Italy jumped forward. A counterattack that lasted 13 seconds from the moment the ball left Donnarumma’s hand to the moment Federico Chiesa rolled it into the net. Suddenly it was 1-0. Suddenly Spain’s error rate continued to decline.
As a result, Morata’s brilliant moment wasn’t enough to win him over, and 30 minutes of extra time wasn’t enough to lift both sides’ energy above the putter. So we went to the penalty shoot-out, the calculation of which is indiscriminate and can often favor the team that may not have been quite sure whether they would get it.
Chiellini seemed exuberant, Italy was on the verge of a high-stakes shootout. Spanish captain Jordi Alba, due to strong visual contrast, Not.
Spain missed twice, including Dani Olmo’s opening game and Morata’s fourth kick, after which Jorginho sauntered to the point and coolly – perhaps cruelly – finished off his opponent forever.
Jorginho pretended he knew he was going to take the penalty. As if he saw the future. Most of the night we had seen the past, an Italian squad throttling and defending like they had before.
Oddly enough, the Italians only won the European Championship once, in 1968. Despite what they have achieved, this was not their competition. It has a chance to be back in the final on Sunday.
The fun is still there. It didn’t have to be for one night.
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