It was coming home for a while, but it did not at the end. It took a diversion to Rome at the end of a penalty shootout. Such was the final between Italy and England that it finished 1-1 after extra-time after which the Azzurri prevailed 3-2 on penalties and lifted their second European Championship, the first since 1968.
— Nazionale Italiana ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@Azzurri) July 11, 2021
Many things went right, and many things went wrong for both sides, but it would not matter to the Italians anymore as they celebrate their triumph after what has been an extraordinary campaign under the management of Roberto Mancini.
However, it will matter to the English players and more so for the manager of the Three Lions, Gareth Southgate, who has seen a repeat of the 1996 Euros, where he himself missed the decisive penalty that knocked England out in the semi-finals.
England manager, Gareth Southgate, dejected after recieving the silver medal at Euro 2020. (Image Courtesy: BBC / Website)
We, at FootTheBall, assess what went wrong for England in the Final of Euro 2020, that cost the nation their first major trophy in 55 years.
TACTICS WORKED OUT BY THE AZZURRI
England’s tactical flexibility was a boon to them throughout the tournament and many a time Gareth Southgate used it to his advantage and had gotten results out of it.
It looked like the same paid off when the manager decided to revert back to a 3-4-3 set-up, as seen against Germany in the Round of 16, with Kieran Trippier coming in for Bukayo Saka in the starting line-up. With the wing-backs much higher up the pitch, England were able to stretch their opposition to the absolute limit and had a wall in front of their three centre-backs to cut off any potential Italian attacks.
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) July 11, 2021
It appeared to be a masterstroke when both the wing-backs, Trippier and Luke Shaw combined to score the opening goal in the second minute of the game, as Trippier put a delicious ball in from the right, with Shaw finishing off with precision.
But as the game went on, the Italians seized control in the middle of the park, which eventually made the England defence into a back five, and turning them into, essentially, a low-block which invited pressure from all around the field.
Bukayo Saka’s substitution was a positive one but it was relatively too late in the game. (Image Courtesy: England / Twitter)
Southgate tried to mitigate the problem by sending on Saka and shifting into a 4-3-3, and while did venture forward, it was perhaps too late. England were the better side for the first 30 minutes, but not after that.
SUBSTITUTE CALLS FROM SOUTHGATE
Although many of the calls from Southgate in this tournament have been late and have seen criticism from various spaces, none would have been equal to what was done on Sunday at Wembley.
His first substitution somewhat paid off as Saka came on in the 71st minute and immediately, England were able to counter the Italian midfield that controlled the game for so long. And he then brought on Jordan Henderson for Declan Rice, who was performing very well until then.
Two more changes for the final moments. pic.twitter.com/pqf3QeQXek
— England (@England) July 11, 2021
But his substitutions of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho in the 119th minute just for them to take penalties backfired heavily, as both of them, who had not had a single kick of the ball in two games, were thrust onto the field in a high-pressure situation, and eventually, both of them missed along with Saka, giving the Italians the championship.
THE ENIGMA OF HARRY KANE
It was thought that England captain Harry Kane had turned the wheel and started embarking on a goalscoring run after a dreadful group stage at Euro 2020, but it wasn’t to be as the striker was not able to attempt a single shot or create a chance for his teammates for only the second time in his 61 appearances for the Three Lions.
0 – Harry Kane didn't attempt a shot or create a chance for only the second time in his 61 games for England, with the other coming in a 29-minute substitute appearance against Switzerland in 2018. Squeezed. #ENG #ITA #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/IaxPEZ7mJw
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 11, 2021
While credit has to be given to Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci for making sure that the Tottenham star was not able to impact the game, questions will be asked regarding the chance creation from the England midfield and also Harry Kane, who is regarded as one of the complete strikers in the world, but was not able to give his side his entire repertoire.
Kane, with his runners-up medal at Euro 2020. (Image Courtesy: BBC / Website)
Kane dropping deep to link up the play is a part of the England system of play. And if that system was built to exploit the weaknesses of Italy, it only worked in the first two minutes. For the rest of the 118 minutes and the additional injury time, it was just a train and Kane was a passenger in it.
All these factors combined to put England in a hole, partly dug by themselves, and partly by Italy. It was a hole they couldn’t come out of and ultimately, the trophy wasn’t to “Come home”.