Roberto Mancini need not have worried about ‘unfair’ ticketing ahead of their Euro 2020 semi-final as Italy fans provided the backing to see their side overcome Spain in dramatic shootoutRoberto Mancini was worried about a lack of Italian support here inside WembleyHis side need that backing to take their brilliant Spanish opponents to extra-timeItaly beat Spain on penalties to progress through to the final on Sunday evening
To think, Roberto Mancini was worried about a lack of support here inside Wembley, as if fearing an occasion sedated by the neutrality of the crowd.
The Italy boss had decried travel and ticketing restrictions as ‘unfair’. The only unjust element of this enthralling contest was the partisan presence of his many thousand countrymen, and boy did his side need that backing to overcome Spanish opponents who gave them their toughest test yet.
London’s transport – or rather, La Linea Metropolitana – was a sea of blue, if not an ocean of calm, in the hours before kick-off. You knew then there would be nothing sedate about this occasion.
Roberto Mancini was worried about a lack of Italian support inside Wembley on Tuesday night
There were said to be around 8,000 Italian fans at the game in Wembley on Tuesday night
And so it proved. If the Football Association want to build a case for hosting future tournaments, then get those who were here to speak on your behalf as opposed to the usual cast of dignitaries.
Yes, England’s matches have not wanted for noise and colour either, but those have been home fixtures.
This, rather, allowed us to indulge in the tournament football about which we romanticise – and feared we might not see this summer – two powerhouse nations doing battle on a foreign field in front of a crowd of ferocity and fervour, a place in the final their prize.
Although they were the minority, the fans helped Italy push Spain to extra-time and penalties
Italy beat Spain on penalties to progress through to the Euro 2020 final on Sunday evening
But it was Italy who undoubtedly had the benefit of the 12th man. Punters in this city’s pizza restaurants must have been frustrated by the waiting time last night, for every ex-pat Italian was seemingly here.
Federico Chiesa bent one shot into the top corner during the warm-up and it was celebrated with more gusto than some regular goals at this tournament.
A couple of hours later and the winger was locating the same patch of net, triggering an eruption behind the goal to rival that of Vesuvius blowing its top.
‘Football’s Coming Rome’ boasted one banner amid the bedlam of blue, and England – should they advance – will be hard pressed not to prevent the trophy leaving our capital in the direction of theirs.
It is staggering to consider that Italy did not even qualify for the World Cup three years ago. Their renaissance has been accelerated by a manager who, while an artist of individuality on the pitch, has matured into a master sculptor in the dugout. This team bears his identity, a wonderful blend of aggression, flair and functionality.
Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci (above) exhibited the strength and presence of the finest basilica, and fluidity and bite of the wine within
As a result of Italy’s performance, they will now progress to the Euro 2020 final on Sunday
But Italy needed to revert to their dogged principles of old to get past a Spain side who brought arguably their best performance of Euro 2020.
Mancini had called his centre-back pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci the world’s best before the game.
And again here that aged duo exhibited the strength and presence of the finest basilica, and fluidity and bite of the wine within. But saintly, they are not. It was this pair who put the devil in the detail of defending.
They had to call on such cunning to deny Spain a winning goal, each block and tackle receiving a guttural roar of approval – but none as hearty as those which met Jorginho’s winning penalty.
Mancini, on reflection, need not have worried.
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