It looked like the Azzurri might’ve been in trouble after England hit them in just the second minute of the match. It was a shocking start for a team that hadn’t trailed for the entire tournament. However, for large swaths of the match, the Azzurri showed why most considered them the most consistent side in the entire tournament.
In the end, the Azzurri ended up controlling the majority of possession and looked like the better side. Yet, the stubborn English defense limited the Italians chances on goal. And with neither side conceding much, this one was destined for penalties. And with UEFA’s Player of the Tournament, Gigio Donnarumma, in goal, the Azzurri had enough luck and talent on their side to edge out the English at Wembley and lift their first continental trophy since 1968.
Despite lifting the cup and being adorned with winners medals, not every Italian was a saint in this one. So, read on to see our sinners and saints for yesterday’s final and let us know your thoughts on the choices.
Can there be any bigger saint than Donnarumma for the Azzurri yesterday? Gigio only had to make one save in the run of play on John Stones, but he came up huge when it mattered most. The 22-year-old Donnarumma was massive in the penalty shootout, saving both Sancho and Saka’s attempts to clinch the Azzurri’s victory.
Bonucci was huge for Italy on both sides of the ball yesterday. The veteran was solid in defense in limiting England’s opportunities going forward, but his performance will be remembered for his offensive exploits. He reacted quickly to put Verratti’s rebound into the back of the net to level the match in the 67th minute. Then he came up big from the spot yet again during the shootout. He also was key in the passing game, completing the most passes (117-131), passes into the final third (10), long balls (9-18), and progressive passes (6) in the match.
At times it’s easy to forget that Chiellini will be 37-years-old in less than a month. The Italy captain was again massive in defense with five clearances, two interceptions, and one tackle. He also won 9 of 13 aerial duels and completed 95% of his passes (113-119), including 6 into the final third. Chiellini also recovered the most loose balls (19) of any Italian on the pitch.
Over the course of this tournament, Chiesa established himself as Italy’s most dangerous attacking threat and yesterday was no different. Chiesa’s dribbling put the English defense on its heels a number of times and he came close to scoring twice—once shooting just wide and once forcing a big save from Pickford. He also worked back hard in defense, pressuring the English 16 times, while recording two tackles, a block, and a clearance.
Verratti was influential in this one on both side of the ball. The diminutive midfielder had 128 touches and completed 111 of 119 (93.3%) of his passes in this one after being starved of the ball against the Spanish—14 of those passes were into the final third with two being key passes and five progressive. He was also joint lead in the side with 17 progressive carries. He had four shot-creating actions and was unlucky not to level the score when his header hit the post before Bonucci knocked it in. On the defensive end, Verratti pressured England 16 times, had two tackles, two interceptions, and two blocks.
Italy had a massive scare in the 20th minute when it looked like Jorginho might have to exit. However, he was able to overcome the early knock, and missed penalty kick aside, he had another strong performance in this one. With Italy controlling possession, Jorginho dinked the ball around around efficiently completing 96 of 102 passes (94.1%), including 11 into the final third, five progressive and one key pass. He also drew the most fouls on the team (5). On the defensive end, he led the side with 23 pressures, while also contributing two interceptions, a tackle, a clearance, and a block.
Cristante was brought in for an ineffective Barella and played well. He was likely chosen over Locatelli and Pessina to combat the physical presence of Rice and Phillips. He didn’t stuff the stat sheet (37 touches, 2 tackles, and an interception), but he made good runs at the English defense. Also, his flick on header was key to Bonucci scoring the tying goal.
His impact on the match, especially offensively, may not be as profound as Leonardo Spinazzola’s. However, Emerson was good in this one. Defensively, he pressured the ball efficiently and had four tackles and three clearances. Offensively, he was 3 for 3 on dribble attempts, had five progressive passes, and completed four passes into the final third.
Stuck in Between
Insigne had a rather poor first half, often making the wrong decision when Italy were in build-up. However, he grew into the match in the second half when he was switched to the false nine role. He led the team in shots with five, but only put one on target. His work rate was there all night, but Insigne didn’t shine like he has at other times in this tournament.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo
Di Lorenzo had a rough start to the match when Luke Shaw got in behind him to open the scoring just two minutes in. However, he was solid throughout defensively. Di Lorenzo led the team with five tackles, four interceptions, and four blocks. He also recovered 12 loose balls. His eight progressive passes also led the team. If it wasn’t for the Shaw goal, Di Lorenzo would certainly have been wearing a halo.
Berardi worked hard after coming on in the 54th minute for Immobile, pressuring the English nine times. But, outside of an audacious volley attempt at a ball over the top that sailed over the crossbar, Berardi didn’t do much offensively. Credit to him for taking the opening penalty cooly though.
In his 35 minutes on the pitch, Bernardeschi didn’t have a profound impact, but he buried a penalty for the second match in a row. Credit to him, the player most fans didn’t want on the squad.
Immobile’s poor run of form continued yesterday. He was pulled after 54 minutes as Mancini again went to a false 9 look in the run of play. In those 54 minutes, Immobile had just 24 touches and was starved of the ball by the English defense.
Once the match hit extra time, Mancini went back to a traditional striker, but Belotti was perhaps worse than Immobile on the night. In 30 minutes, he had just seven touches of the ball. And to make matters worse, he missed his attempt during the shootout.
Barella wasn’t at his best yesterday and his yellow card right after halftime made his substitution imminent by the time he was replaced by Cristante in the 53rd minute. As usual, he was a willing worker with 18 pressures, but didn’t do much else on either end of the pitch. After a long season, the legs just didn’t seem to be there for him.