An early goal and a dramatic finish deliver a championship for Italy, and leave England to wonder, again, how it went wrong.
Italy beat England in a penalty shootout to win the European soccer championship on Sunday, dashing England’s hopes of winning its first major title since the 1966 World Cup and restoring the reputation of an Italian squad that had been humiliated five years ago when it failed to qualify for the World Cup.
The shootout was a dramatic conclusion to a gripping day at London’s Wembley Stadium, and to a monthlong tournament that overcame a one-year pandemic delay and innumerable public health concerns on its way to a final, scintillating day in London.
The final was worth the wait: It saw England take the lead on a goal by defender Luke Shaw after only two minutes, and then a second-half response from Leonardo Bonucci. Before and after was a whirlwind of highs and lows, hard fouls and close calls, misses and makes, before Italy prevailed in the shootout, 3-2.
Even the shootout had full chapters of drama: Players brought on just so they could take part missed their shots, and Italy’s surest penalty taker failed to convert an attempt that would have won it for his country.
Only when Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy’s hulking goalkeeper, had pushed aside the final attempt, by the England teenager Bukayo Saka, was it over, his save setting off a wild celebration that saw players from each team dissolve into tears.
“I’m devastated,” said Rosie Mayson, 25, as the shiny English flag she wore on her cheek faded with tears. “That team embodied so many amazing values, but still, we didn’t bring it home.”