Roberto Mancini honours promise to make Italy champions of Europe

The England fans sang “It’s Coming Home”, but a banner at the blue end of Wembley begged to differ. “Football’s Coming Rome” might not be good grammar, but a little artistic licence must be allowed when your team is making history in hostile territory as Italy did on Sunday night.
Thirty-four games unbeaten, and now the champions of Europe. Who ever could have imagined such a scenario when Roberto Mancini took charge three years ago? His first game was a friendly against Saudi Arabia, who were using the match as a tune-up event for a World Cup for which Italy had failed to qualify.
The Italy captain, Giorgio Chiellini, lifts the Henri Delaunay trophy after the Azzurri beat England on penalties.
Italy crush England’s dreams after winning Euro 2020 on penalties
Yet Mancini refused to accept diminished ambitions. From day one, he stated his intention to “take Italy back where it deserves to be, on top of Europe and the world. We have not won a European Championship for many years, so that will be our first objective.”
Cross item one off the list. Italy conquered England the hard way at Wembley, winning via a penalty shootout for the second time in as many rounds.
Why not? They have taken the hard path all through this tournament. After finishing top of their group and surviving a last-16 battle with Austria, Italy had to defeat the world No 1 Belgium, as well as Spain, the opponents who beat them the last time they reached the final of this tournament, in 2012. All that was left was to beat England at their own home ground.
They even gave their hosts a head start. Roberto Mancini had played down the importance of a home crowd before kickoff, saying that his players would have “lots of other things to think about besides their fans”, but Luke Shaw’s second-minute strike gave the lie to that claim, the noise inside a packed Wembley unlike anything these players can have heard since the coronavirus pandemic hit the world.
Italy had not trailed at this tournament until that goal, and for 65 minutes it appeared this might be the one riddle they could not solve. For all the commitment and technical ability of their attackers, the Azzurri would need a veteran defender to dig them out of the hole. Who better to silence a home crowd than Leonardo Bonucci, a player who celebrates every goal by waving a finger in front of his face, inviting the doubters to “wash your mouth out”?
Domenico Berardi helped to swing the game Italy’s way after his introduction and scored his penalty.
Domenico Berardi helped to swing the game Italy’s way after his introduction and scored his penalty. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Uefa/Getty Images
It was Mancini, though, who had changed the game with his substitutions, the introduction of Domenico Berardi for Ciro Immobile finally allowing Italy to achieve the width required to stretch England’s defence. As he hugged the right touchline, Lorenzo Insigne, operating now as a false nine, started to find space to operate inside. Bonucci’s goal arrived from a corner, but only after Italy had begun to build a head of steam.
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