European Championship final at Wembley Stadium. Italy’s players cheer with the trophy after the game.

Christian Charisius | Image Alliance | Getty Images

It was another penalty shoot-out heartbreak for England and Gareth Southgate when Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed the point in a devastating Euro 2020 defeat to Italy.

When Jordan Pickford saved Andrea Belotti there was real hope for a first major trophy in 55 years and final redemption for Southgate, who missed a crucial penalty in the € 96 semi-finals but before the brink of fame their own supporters at Wembley, England , collapsed.

Rashford rolled a tame shot into the post and Sancho and Saka watched the tournament player Gianluigi Donnarumma save their efforts in a 3-2 loss on penalties to the Italian players and the small but noisy group of their fans on the other end of the year cheers set off the pitch.

Luke Shaw had given England a dream start and scored his first goal for his country and the fastest ever European Championship final when he hit a deep cross with a pounding half volley just three minutes later. Southgate’s surprising full-back system caused Italy to have real problems, but Roberto Mancini’s side struggled to control possession and set out to wear their opponent down.

The deserved equalization finally came after a set piece situation, when experienced defender Leonardo Bonucci played after a scramble in the 67th minute and became the oldest goalscorer in a European Championship final at the age of 34. He was also one of three Italians to hit the net from 12 meters at the end of extra time to seal their second European Championship crown after their first in 1968.

For England players, however, there was only desperation. Southgate tried to comfort Rashford, Sancho, and Saka, but he knows how bad they will be.

The coach will be able to talk about his young team’s progress, how they united the country in hope, and point out the chance to be back at the World Cup in 16 months. But there will also be a cold, cruel realization that England’s glorious chance to win it on your own has been wasted.

How the trophy was won …

In contrast to the dejected mood of the English fans when Italy celebrated hours before kick-off, Wembley Way was flooded with fans waving torches and shooting soccer balls, drinking and chanting for their heroes. The number of fans well over the 60,000 fortunate enough to have tickets, and thousands made the pilgrimage to the National Stadium to be part of the historic event.

This enthusiasm and desire to support the team spilled over on several occasions, with some attempting to break into the stadium. The scenes were unsavory, but they didn’t detract from the incredible atmosphere created by the fans in the ground, with a crescendo at kick-off like the new Wembley has never experienced before.

Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci (C) poses with the European Championship trophy after Italy won the UEFA EURO 2020 final between Italy and England at Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021.

Laurence Griffiths | AFP | Getty Images

This sound reached a whole new level just moments after the first whistle. Italy had won an early corner but England countered quickly. Harry Kane dumped the ball to Kieran Trippier, who delivered a fantastic cross to the back post for Shaw to score a brilliant half-volley shot into the house.

What a goal for his first goal for his country and what a start to the final for England, which continued to cause real problems on the right as Emerson struggled to keep Trippier from delivering two more crosses in quick succession.

It started to rain and the field was getting faster, but England were still the fastest on any loose ball, sharpest with their ball contact and attacking at real speed. There was cheer from the English fans as first Kalvin Phillips and then Harry Maguire carried the ball confidently out of defense, past blue shirts, before sarcastic applause received Lorenzo Insigne’s dragging tee into the distance.

The ridicule became even more nervous when Federico Chiesa, who was single-handedly trying to get his side back on track, shot just wide of the post after a period of Italian pressure in the 35th minute. Mancini’s side stayed on their front foot but struggled to find their way through the white jersey walls, with Ciro Immobiles shot blocked by John Stones and Marco Verratti’s margin easy for Pickford.

England believed they had made another quick start early in the second half when Raheem Sterling hit the deck in the penalty area trying to wriggle past two Italian defenders, but his penalty appeals were dismissed and the replays showed it was the striker who tried to contact.

Then he was almost punished for his own foul on the other end when Insigne took a free kick just wide of the goal. The tricky winger missed another attempt shortly thereafter, but he was the Italians’ greatest threat, shooting Pickford from a tight angle after being pushed wide in the box by Stones and Kyle Walker.

Italy’s Manuel Locatelli (M) tries to shoot on goal from England’s goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (l).

Christian Charisius | Image Alliance | Getty Images

England’s number one had to be sharper to fend off Chiesa’s low drive with his left hand before Stones landed his team’s first shot on goal since the corner hit, forcing Donnarumma to tip over.

However, it was an Italian corner that equalized. The ball went to the back post, where Verratti steered a header onto goal. Pickford managed to tip it on the inside of his post, but Bonucci was the quickest reaction to put it away.

Southgate’s response was to send Saka and change his team to 4-3-3 – but they nearly fell behind when Domenico Berardi volleyed over the top with Bonucci’s long pass and sent his shot out of his goal with Pickford.

The momentum seemed to be at Italy but an injury to Chiesa stopped the game and England were better off taking a breather. Mason Mount combined with Shaw and crossed for Saka, Shaw shot over and Sterling ran deep into the Italian penalty area.

Saka appeared to break free near the halfway line in the final stages but was cynically dragged to the ground by Giorgio Chiellini and these teams went into overtime for the second game in a row.

Chiellini showed the more admirable side of his game five minutes into the restart, making a crucial block after Sterling drove into the box before Phillips shot from the resulting corner. With England’s tails suddenly up, Jack Grealish was thrown into the action. The lateral thinker visibly worried the Italian defenders as soon as he got on the ball – but it was the Azzurri who came close next.

Emerson’s cross was narrowly missed by Federico Bernardeschi and pushed away by Pickford before Bernardeschi’s shot was blocked by Phillips on the next move.

Bernardeschi hit a free kick straight at Pickford early in the second half before Wembley gasped for air at the other end as Grealish blocked a shot in the box and then a cross was just out of Stones’ reach when Donnarumma made a clear hit.

The Aston Villa ace began to make England tick again despite sticking Jorginho’s thigh in a painful collision, but at that point attention turned to the looming penalty shoot-out that sent Rashford and Sancho from Southgate .

Perhaps it was inevitable that England’s fate, in its first final since 1966, would be decided by what in modern times has been the main talking point of its shortcomings in these competitions. They hoped to put their meager 12-yard record in Russia to bed in 2018 when they beat Colombia – but it was a well-known story of desperation from the spot.

Pickford had believed Wembley when he denied Belotti, but Rashford and Sancho gave the advantage back to Italy and although Jorginho surprisingly missed the chance to complete it, Saka’s attempt to send the Cup Italy’s way was saved.

See you in Qatar 22, read the billboards. With all the pain of losing, at least the inspiring young Southgate squad won’t have to wait long to leave …