Italy v Spain Review: Euros 2020
July 7th, 2021 | Football
What a brilliant game of football. Two teams matching each other stride for stride, playing good football, defending well and scoring goals of the highest quality. Italy were far from their best but still played some slick counterattacking football. Italy’s goal was curled in by impressive wide player Federico Chiesa at a time when Spain, as they were for the 120 minutes, were the better team and were really starting to boss proceedings. I’ve mentioned in previous articles about Spain’s toothless nature upfront and inability to convert clear chances at times. This again ultimately cost an otherwise fantastic team. Olmo had a brilliant chance denied by Donnarumma. But the chances fell to Oyarzabal. The winger missed two brilliant opportunities. In the first half a poor first-touch denied him the opportunity to have a one-on-one against Donnarumma and he missed a clear heading opportunity in the second. Spain were playing some good stuff with Dani Olmo operating a false-nine, something he did superbly throughout the game. But bringing on Alvaro Morata, an out and out no.9, proved to be the right decision, with Morata levelling the score in the 80th minute after some slick interplay with Dani Olmo and a calm finish.
Spain bossed the ball throughout the 120 minutes ending the game with possession 71% in their favour, an impressive statistic when you look at the quality of Italy’s midfield three of Jorginho, Verratti and Barella. Italy really struggled with Dani Olmo dropping into midfield and creating 4 v 3 situations. The Italians did defend this much better in the second half, but Dani Olmo still proved to be a threat, shown with his assist for the equalising goal. Spain’s midfield three of Busquets holding with Pedri and Koke box-to-box were superb, with Pedri, as he has done throughout the tournament, being a standout player for the Spanish. He was outstanding. For an 18-year-old to play like he did against a midfield of Italy’s quality is very impressive. Like he has throughout the tournament, he drove a passive Spain side forwards, carrying the ball well and passing it at the right moment. His passing can be simplistic, but his movement on and off the ball and his ability on the ball made him a real asset for Spain last night and throughout this tournament. A player with a very bright future.
So after 120 minutes of Spain dominating the ball and Italy defending well, it came down to penalties. I hear people say things like a penalty shootout “is a lottery”, but it’s not. It’s the ultimate test of a footballer’s mental strength and guts. Being able to handle that pressure and execute a spot-kick of enough quality to send it past an international-standard goalkeeper. A mind game between goalkeepers and outfield players.
The shootout went like this. Locatelli was first up for Italy and saw a tame spot-kick well saved by Unai Simon. Dani Olmo then had the chance to put Spain 1-0 up in the shootout, a chance not taken as he blazed it over the bar. Belotti, Moreno, Bonucci and Thiago all converted their spot-kicks to make it 2-2 in the shootout. Substitute Bernardeschi sent his penalty into the top-corner making the score 3-2 in favour of the Italians. Fellow substitute Morata, who levelled the game in the 90 minutes, saw his somewhat weak penalty saved by Donnarumma, meaning Italy could win the shootout should they convert the next spot-kick. The reliable Jorginho did a hop, skip and a jump before calmly slotting the ball into the bottom right corner, winning the shootout 4-2 for the Italians and booking their place in the final of EURO 2020 at Wembley Stadium.
The Italians were second best throughout the 120 minutes of quality football we saw. But still played some good stuff at times, scored a brilliant goal and defended well when necessary. Did they get lucky with Spain’s missed chances, yes, but you need luck to do well in tournaments and they got some last night.
Spain Ratings: Simon (5), Alba (6), Laporte (7), Garcia (5), Azpilicueta (5), Pedri (9), Busquets (8), Koke (8), Torres (6), Olmo (8), Oyarzabal (4).
SUBS: Torres (6), Llorente (6), Morata (7), Moreno (6), Thiago (6), Rodri (6).
Italy Ratings: Donnarumma (5), Emerson (5), Chiellini (7), Bonucci (7), Di Lorenzo (7), Verratti (6), Jorginho (5), Barella (6), Insigne (6), Immobile (6), Chiesa (7)
SUBS: Locatelli (6), Belotti (6), Berardi (7), Pessina (6), Bernardeschi (6).
I’ve touched on Pedri’s performance and my thoughts on him as a player already in this article, so I’ll keep this short. A fantastic performance from the Barcelona youngster. He demanded the ball whenever it was near him, progressed it forwards and showed his dribbling ability and energy throughout the game. His short passing and decision making is elite. He attempted 55 passes in the 90 minutes against Italy and completed all 55, giving him a 100% passing accuracy in the 90 minutes. A really impressive performance from the young midfielder, and I hope to see him continue his meteoric rise.
Please note: The football articles that feature on this site are being written by Jack Dixon as part of his work experience. He is a teenager and looking for work experience within the football industry. He is currently studying for his media and art A-levels.