JOY-GINHO: Italy beat Spain on penalties after pulsating semi-final
Italy beat Spain on penalties after a pulsating semi-final between the two nations at Wembley finished 1-1 at the end of extra time.
Federico Chiesa looked to have won the game for the Italians in normal time with a fine curling effort but Alvaro Morata came off the bench to calmly finish a slick Spain move to take the game to extra-time. However, Morata went from zero to hero as he missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out and Chelsea’s Jorginho converted the winner.
It was a game with an extraordinarily quick tempo and fans, often used to cagey semi-finals, were thoroughly entertained at Wembley.
Spain’s Dani Olmo caused Italian centre-backs Georgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci all sorts of problems in the first half. He was selected as a ‘false 9’ ahead of out-and-out striker Morata and his ability to drop into pockets and link the play gave Spain a really threatening look.
It was Olmo who had the first real sight of goal as Sergio Busquets thread a pass through the Italian defensive lines and some neat interchange eventually meant the ball fell to Olmo but his shot was well-saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma.
But it was end-to-end and Italy utilised their pace up front very well and were close to getting their forwards in on goal on many an occasion. The next chance fell to them as a swift attack saw Lorenzo Insigne lay the ball to Emerson and his powerful strike rattled the bar from a tight angle.
The tempo remained at a frenetic pace in the second half as both teams searched for an elusive opening goal. Busquets fired just over after another swift counter-attack by Spain who looked most likely to break the deadlock. But it was Italy, who managed to break out of being camped in their half to strike first.
A forward ball by Insigne nearly found Ciro Immobile but Aymeric Laporte, Spain’s best player on the night, expertly cut it out. Nevertheless, the loose ball fell to Chiesa who was allowed to cut inside and bend a shot into the far corner as Italy showed their clinical side once more.
Stung by that goal, Spain brought on Morata and Gerard Moreno to search for an equaliser. It was Mikkel Oyarzabal who had the first guilt-edge chance to equalise as he somehow missed the ball when it looked easier to score. He would have been grateful to Morata for sparing his blushes by calmly finishing off a superb move with just ten minutes remaining to take the game to extra-time.
Extra-time saw Spain press more for a winner with Olmo testing Donnarumma once more from a free-kick and Marcos Llorente having a goal-bound shot blocked by Chiellini.
However, it went to penalties and despite Manuel Locatelli missing the first kick, Olmo immediately blazed over before Morata missed the crucial kick to give the nerveless Jorginho the chance to send Italy to the final and he duly delivered.
Italy will now play either Denmark or England in the final on Sunday.
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