Saturday, January 29, 2022

Early goal and dramatic finish deliver a championship for Italy.

Italy beat England in a penalty shootout to win the European soccer championship on Sunday, dashing England’s hopes of winning its first major title since the 1966 World Cup and restoring the reputation of an Italian squad that had been humiliated five years ago when it failed to qualify for the World Cup.

The final was worth the wait: It saw England take the lead on a goal by defender Luke Shaw after only two minutes, and then a second-half response from Leonardo Bonucci. Before and after was a whirlwind of highs and lows, hard fouls and close calls, misses and makes, before Italy prevailed in the shootout, 3-2.

Even the shootout had full chapters of drama: Players brought on just so they could take part missed their shots, and Italy’s surest penalty taker failed to convert an attempt that would have won it for his country.

Only when Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy’s hulking goalkeeper, had pushed aside the final attempt, by the England teenager Bukayo Saka, was it over, his save setting off a wild celebration that saw players from each team dissolve into tears.

For English fans, the ending — the entire day, really — was an emotional was hope and optimism to surprise to disbelief as they stumbled out of Wembley into the night, into a steady London rain.

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