“IT’S COMING TO ROME! IT’S COMING TO ROME!”

On the turf of Wembley Stadium in London, Leonardo Bonucci shouted at the cameras after the Italy Men’s National Team had defeated England on penalties in the 2020 European Championship Final at Wembley, bringing an end to (at least) a month of fans of Gareth Southgate‘s Three Lions not shying away from sharing their belief that football would be “coming home” that summer.

The Azzurri triumphed at the European Championship for just the second time, despite having won the World Cup four times, and they broke a 53-year drought in the process.

It was quite the journey for Italy and their coach Roberto Mancini, who had to rebuild the Azzurri squad after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UEFA had to postpone Euro 2020 to the following year.

Underdogs Italy despite impressive qualification campaign

Italy qualified for the tournament in comprehensive fashion, winning all 10 matches in Group J, scoring 37 goals and conceding just four. Traditionally, Italian teams would scrape through the qualification, but Mancini created a team that wanted to win and do so with style.

Despite their impressive form, the Azzurri did not enter the tournament as one of the favourites. Their group in qualifying, consisting of Finland, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, and Liechtenstein, was considered to be a weak one, and the World Cup qualification failure was still clear in the minds of many.

Italy ease through Euro 2020 Group A

Italy coach Roberto Mancini. (@Azzurri_EN)

Euro 2020 was hosted all over the continent and Italy were afforded the luxury of playing all their group matches in Rome.

The Azzurri qualified comfortably out of Group A, defeating both Turkey and Switzerland by the score of 3-0, then they defeated Wales by a solitary Matteo Pessina goal.

Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli impressed in the early games and got a brace against the Swiss, but he dropped to the bench when Marco Verratti returned from injury. The then-Paris Saint-Germain midfielder fitted seamlessly back into the team and supplied the assist for Pessina against Wales.

Chiesa comes up clutch, Spinazzola dazzles until disastrous injury

Federico Chiesa shoots with the Italy Men’s National Team against Spain at the 2020 European Championship. (@Azzurri_en)

Italy faced Austria in the Round of 16 at Wembley, and the match went to extra-time after a scoreless 90 minutes. Federico Chiesa put the Azzurri in front with a well-taken goal, and Pessina scored his second goal in as many games. Sasa Kalajdzic pulled it back to 2-1, but it was too little, too late for the Austrians.

In the quarter-finals, Italy had to travel to Munich, Germany, to face Belgium, one of the tournament favourites. The Red Devils did not know what hit them as the Azzurri lead 2-0 thanks to goals from Nicolo Barella and a stunning strike from Lorenzo Insigne. Romelu Lukaku pulled one back to 2-1 with a penalty before half-time.

Nicolo Barella celebrates scoring for the Italy Men’s National Team against Belgium at the 2020 European Championship. (@Azzurri_en)

The score did not change in the second half, but an Achilles Tendon injury to Leonardo Spinazzola was a setback for the Azzurri. The AS Roma left-back was arguably the player of the tournament at that stage, and his pace as well as attacking endeavour was missed in the next two matches.

Without Spinazzola on the left flank, Italy had a lot of difficulty breaking down Spain in the semi-finals at Wembley, but Chiesa gave the Italians the lead with an excellent strike. Alvaro Morata, who played for Juventus at the time, equalised for La Furia Roja forcing extra time.

Both teams could not be separated after 120 minutes, but Morata missed one of the penalties in the shootout, and Jorginho stepped up to secure a 4-2 win for the Azzurri.

Jorginho converts a penalty in the Italy Men’s National Team’s shootout victory over Spain at the 2020 European Championship. (@Azzurri_en)

The Azzurri stun the Three Lions on English soil

Italy faced England in the Euro 2020 final. The Three Lions had defeated Denmark in the other semi-final and they could count on home advantage. The English fans were buoyant throughout the tournament, singing their (to many) irritating “football’s coming home” chant incessantly.

Luke Shaw gave England plenty to smile about with a goal after just two minutes, but Bonucci equalised after a corner in the second half.

The Italy Men’s National Team celebrate their 2020 European Championship win. (@EURO2024)

For the second match in a row, the Azzurri went into extra time and had to take penalties again. Although Andrea Belotti and Jorginho failed to convert their penalty kicks, Gianluigi Donnarumma was the hero for Italy, saving two penalties, and the Italians won 3-2 in the shootout.

After 53 years, the Azzurri were European champions again. As for England, it did not ‘come home’, and they had to see the trophy go to Rome and continue their wait for a trophy since last winning the World Cup in 1966 for the one and only time.