On 11th July 2021, the stage was set at Wembley Stadium. After being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the Euro 2020 was finally held in Europe this summer, building up to a spectacular final at England’s home.
However, even though almost everyone seemed to be convinced that “it was coming home”, it didn’t turn out to be the case as the Italy vs England final was decided by penalties in Italy’s favour.
This year’s European Championship was surprising in many ways, but Italy winning the tournament wasn’t one. The early England goal might have made it seem like a well-contested battle but for the majority of the match, Italy seemed to have held its own quite well.
Famous bookmakers in India such as Betway never considered Italy as their favourite. In terms of the odds offered, France was the clear favourite going into the tournament.
So how did Italy, who couldn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup, manage to win this tournament? Let’s take a quick at the factors in this article:
The Roberto Mancini Effect
After a poor performance in the 2018 World Cup qualification, the Italian team had to go through a transformation process. One of the key elements of this transformation was the appointment of Robert Mancini as the head coach of the Azzurri.
In terms of strategy, the most prominent change was moving away from the traditional defensive style to a possession-based style in a 4-3-3 system. While still retaining a strong defence, the midfield has improved considerably with players like Jorginho often controlling the pace of the game. The Italian attack also had a considerable impact on the game, with Federico Chiesa as a shining example.
Mancini also prioritized bringing new blood into the team instead of just relying on established talent. It is clear that his vision for the Azzurri is to create a new era of players that can take the team forward in the coming years, particularly for the upcoming world cup.
Donnarumma replacing Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon is an icon of Italian football and taking his place was not an easy task for anyone. However, with the tournament concluded it is quite clear that Donnarumma indeed is a worthy successor to the legend. He was also given the player of the tournament award for his performance this year.
Only 22 years old, the Italian goalkeeper has been a vital element of the squad. Not only has he managed to keep the number of goals conceded to an almost comically low number, but he has also shone in multiple penalty shootouts in the road to Italy’s victory.
The defenders who refuse to grow old
Lastly, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci held up the Italian defence and despite being older than almost every player on the pitch, the duo played their hearts out through regular and extra time in the final.
Additionally, both would also influence the game majorly. Bonucci scored the goal that would equalize the game and Chiellini stopped England’s Bukayo Saka with a pitch-perfect tactical foul that earned him a yellow card.
Leaders on and off the field, both were able to support and rally the younger players throughout the tournament easing their nerves in pressing moments. While no single player can make a difference in a team sport like football, having experienced and motivated players like these two is a gift any team would gladly accept.
In hindsight, Euro 2020 would be considered the tournament where Italy went through a significant transformation into becoming a world-class title-challenging team again. And the timing couldn’t be better with the World Cup coming up soon.