Soccer fans around the world held their breaths as England and Italy headed into a penalty shootout following a nail biting regular period plus overtime that left the two teams in a 1-1 draw. The shootout would determine who would be crowned victors of the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship on Sunday, July 11. Nineteen-year-old midfielder Bukayo Saka stepped up to take England’s fifth penalty in hopes of leading the team into the next round of penalty kicks.

If Saka scored, the shootout would continue. Despite his best efforts, however, Italian goalkeeper Giauigi Donnarumma came up with a spectacular save to end the shootout at 3-2 and take the Henri Delaunay Cup trophy back to Italy for the first time in over 50 years. 

This tournament was riveting for more reasons than one, including the surmount of expectations by several teams. Italy was certainly anticipated to perform well, but announcers, critics and fans alike did not project them to win the whole tournament after the team failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 2018.  

Denmark also shocked the world by advancing to the semifinals, even after losing star midfielder Christian Eriksen in their first game. Eriksen collapsed suddenly on the pitch, suffering a cardiac arrest and putting his career, and life, in jeopardy.

England, Germany and France had some of the strongest rosters and were favorites heading into the tournament. Ultimately, though, Italy rose to the occasion and was victorious in the most deserving manner. 

Although many predicted a competitive matchup,  England was the favored team because of its talented starting lineup and deep bench. 

England also had home field advantage. The game was played at Wembley Stadium in London where over 60,000 fans were in attendance — the majority of whom were English. With icons like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and former English soccer legend David Beckham in the stands, it seemed as though the entire country had their eyes on their soccer team. There was even an announcement for a potential holiday if England were to win. Little did England know what Italy had in store for the contest. 

England gained a quick confidence boost within the first three minutes of the game when defender Luke Shaw blasted a volley into the goal, making the game 1-0. Italy was not discouraged, though, and they continued to play together as a team and dominate possession. Italy seemed to outplay England in the midfield which gave them better opportunities to connect in the final third of the field. This eventually forced England to concede a corner kick, allowing Italy’s central defender Leonardo Bonucci to put the ball in the back of the net.

As the game came to its end and neither team was able to score in overtime, the game progressed into penalty kicks in which Italy would ultimately win 3-2. The victors of the tournament undeniably deserved to bask in the glory of being champions and bring home the pride of becoming champions of the 2020 Euro Cup. 

Italy clearly showed up to compete and leave victorious, and they did just that. The underdogs really stepped up not only in the finals match but throughout the entirety of the tournament. Defender Giorgio Chiellini, for example, played a vital role in leading his team to victory. The 37-year-old served as Italy’s captain and starting center back in the tournament. Though he did not start nor get as much playing time as he does with his club team Juventus, Chiellini certainly stood out on the field for his leadership. Italy also had others who rose to the challenge, which goes to show that they played to win despite what others predicted about their potential tournament success. 

Overall, Italy’s team chemistry, creativity and grit were unwavering in the UEFA 2020 Euro Cup, leading them to an unexpected but well-deserved championship.

Over one year after COVID-19 canceled professional sports, 60,000 fans packed into England’s Wembley Stadium for the UEFA Euro 2020 Final. Italy defeated England in penalty kicks. (Wikimedia Commons/Kwh1050)