The resurrected ‘Azuri Legion’ climbs to the top of the Euro after 53 years

Italy’s national football team celebrates with the trophy after winning the Euro 2020 final against England on penalty shoot-out at Wembley Stadium in London, England, on the 12th. London = Reuters

The ‘Azuri Legion’ Italy, which was considered a European football powerhouse, went through a severe dark period in the 2010s amid a collapse in attack power. However, thanks to a strong defense such as Giorgio Chiellini (37) and Leonardo Bonucci (34, Juventus) and goalkeepers such as Gianluigi Buffon (43, Parma), he did not completely collapse and kept his face in the Euro 2016 quarterfinals. Afterwards, in the late 2010s, they finally succeeded in changing the generation of the offensive team and went on an undefeated streak.

Of course, Italy’s strength that sustained the dark ages remained intact. Chiellini and Bonucci’s centre-back duo developed a stronger defense based on experience as they got older. Legendary goalkeeper Buffon retired from the national team in 2018, but Gianluigi Donnarumma (22, AC Milan) took over this position instead. He has been called a ‘genius goalkeeper’ since he was a teenager, and after the retirement of a legend, he was firmly at the back of the Italian defense.

And this old centre-back duo and the genius goalkeeper finally led the team to the European champions. Italy defeated England after a 1-1 draw in the Euro 2020 final held at Wembley Stadium in London, England on the 12th. As a result, Italy has risen to the top of Europe for the first time in 53 years since the 1968 Games held in their own country. Their unbeaten streak since 2018 has also been increased to 34 games (27 wins, 7 draws). On the other hand, England, who reached the final of the tournament for the first time, did not achieve their dream of winning even though they had the advantage of the home ground.

Pushed by the momentum of the British crowd that filled Wembley, the holy city of English football, Italy started the game difficult by conceding a goal in just two minutes of kickoff. Luke Shaw, who was on the other side of the goal, finished off a diagonal cross from the right by Keiron Trippier with a left-footed nonstop shot to open the goal.

However, Italy did not falter and made up for it with a solid defense centered on Chiellini and Bonucci. In the end, they equalized in the 22nd minute of the second half. England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford managed to hit Marco Berrati’s header in a head-to-head match following a corner kick, but Bonucci shot again to shake the net.

Italy, which was gaining momentum, continued to drive the English half, but failed to win, and the match eventually went into overtime. In the overtime, England had a slight advantage, but this time, no goals were scored and the overtime ended, and the Euro 2020 winner was decided on a penalty shootout.

Donnarumma became the protagonist in this penalty shootout. He showed a surprising save in the penalty shootout in the previous semi-final against Spain, and in a situation where the burden was increased due to the failure of the second shot by Italy’s second kicker, he continued to shoot with England’s third kicker Marcus Rashford and fourth kicker Jaden Sancho’s shots in a row. blocked it Afterwards, Italy’s fifth kicker Jorginho’s shot failed, but England’s last kicker Bukayo Saka’s shot was also blocked by Donnarumma, so Italy won 3-2 on penalties. Donnarumma, who led the team to victory on penalty shootouts in the semifinals and finals, was selected as the goalkeeper of the tournament as the MVP.

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