Italy complete redemption story three years on from World Cup qualifying disaster

Source: 1News

In November 2017, the Italian football team fell to their knees in despair in front of a packed crowd at Milan's San Siro stadium.

A nil-all draw with Sweden saw the Italians crash out of World Cup qualifying, missing the tournament for the first time since 1958.

It was a national disaster. A disgrace even. Veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini was among a group of players who declared their immediate retirement from the national team.

Today, three-and-a-half years on, Chiellini lifted the European Championship after leading his side to a penalty shootout victory over England in London.

It is the kind of redemption story dreams are made of, and one Italy thoroughly deserved.

Roberto Mancini's side had been the best team throughout the tournament, beating the likes of Belgium and Spain on their way to the final at Wembley.

Yet just two minutes in, Italy found themselves a goal behind after Luke Shaw powered home a volley to give England the lead.

Other teams may have folded, but not this Italian side.

They gradually worked their way back into the game and by halftime had taken it by the scruff of the neck.

It was almost inevitable the game would head to penalties after Leonardo Bonucci equalised in the second half and when it did, there was likely to only be one winner.

Gianluigi Donnarumma saved back-to-back spot kicks from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, after Marcus Rashford also missed, to win the game and the tournament for the visitors, completing one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the team's history.

England were consigned to yet another shootout defeat at a major tournament. It had lost shootouts in 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2012 before today.

Donnarumma became the first goalkeeper to win player of the tournament. The Italians never conceded more than one goal in any game at Euro 2020. In fact, Italy have never conceded more than one goal in any of Donnarumma's 33 games for his country.

England's wait for another major trophy continues. Their next chance to win silverware for the first time since 1966 will be at next year's World Cup in Qatar.