Italy 1-1 Spain (4-2 on penalties): Hits and misses as the Azzurri advance to the finals in a tense shootout | UEFA Euro 2020


Italy qualified for the UEFA Euro 2020 final in dramatic fashion after defeating Spain 4-2 on penalties in the semi-finals on Tuesday evening.

Contrary to general opinion before the game, it was Spain that began the game on the front foot. Luis Enrique’s men had the better chances in the first half while successfully keeping their more fancied opponents at bay.

And so it was against the run of play that Italy took the lead in the 60th minute as Federico Chiesa put the finishing touches on an incisive counter-attack. However, Spain did not let their heads drop and regained parity in the 80th minute. Alvaro Morata came off the bench and coolly slotted home a well-worked equalizer.

Although both sides looked dangerous in attack, neither goalkeeper was unduly tested as the game went into extra time. However, both sides seemed to prioritize not conceding over scoring as an uneventful 30 minutes fizzled out and gave way to a penalty shootout.

Stepping up to put his side back on level terms with four penalties taken by both sides, Morata’s evening then took a turn for the worse. His crucial miss left the door open for Jorginho to send Italy through with a nerveless spot-kick that sent Italian players, staff, and fans alike into raptures.

The Italians will now await the outcome of the second semi-final match between England and Denmark, which will be played on Wednesday evening ahead of the final on Sunday.

On that topic, here are the highlights and lowlights from a tense semi-final matchup.

#1 Hit: Dani Olmo

Olmo was one of Spain
Olmo was one of Spain’s star performers on a disappointing night

Some might question the logic behind Luis Enrique’s decision to drop Morata in favor of a player with quite a different playing style in Olmo. But the RB Leipzig attacker repaid his coach’s faith in him by leading the Spanish attack extremely well.

Playing from a deeper position than what Morata usually occupies, Olmo succeeded in escaping the attentions of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. As a result, he was able to spend more time on the ball, drive at the Italian goal instead of jostling with the veteran Italian defenders, and bring his fellow attackers into the game more effectively.

Olmo moved to the left side after Morata’s entrance in the second half, where he was similarly productive. After a clever one-two with the Juventus striker, it was Olmo who put Morata in for the equalizer, closing off a brilliant performance with a well-deserved assist.

The lone blemish on his otherwise immaculate record came from a botched penalty attempt in the shootout, when the strain of the moment seemed to get to him.

2 Flop: Ciro Immobile

Immobile had a tough time leading the line for Italy and was hooked on the hour mark

Despite being a prolific goalscorer in domestic football, Ciro Immobile hasn’t quite been able to replicate his club form in the international arena. The Lazio man started the Euros with two goals in the first two games but has seen his scoring output dry up since then, even as the Italians continue to sweep all before them in the tournament.

Leading the line for the Azzuri yet again in this game, Immobile was virtually anonymous in the first half as the Spanish defenders man-marked him quite effectively. And when his side did win the ball back, his hold-up play left much to be desired as Italy struggled to get a foothold in the game.

While his pace did help open up the Spanish defense in the build-up to Italy’s opener, Immobile’s struggles at the helm of the attack were soon recognized by Roberto Mancini, who brought him off immediately after the goal went in, with half an hour yet to play.

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