48 matches and 25 days since the curtain-raiser in Rome, we reached the business end of the 2020 European Championships as the semi-finals got underway.
Italy, Spain, England and Denmark were the four teams vying for a spot in the final at Wembley Stadium, and after two intense matches, we know who will be playing in London on Sunday.
So, without further adieu, let’s get straight into unpacking the semi-finals:
Italy vs Spain
Two beautifully fluent possession-based sides faced off in the first semi-final, as Roberto Mancini’s Italy faced Luis Enrique’s Spain.
The ex-Barcelona boss threw in a bit of a surprise with his team selection as he opted against using a recognised striker, using Dani Olmo as a false nine instead.
The RB Leipzig ma looked to be a key player from a tactical standpoint, as his freedom to drift out to either flank or drop deep meant that the veteran Italian centre-back pairing did not have one specific man to mark, which certainly caused them some troubles.
Spain were able to control possession in the opening stages of the match, but Italy always posed a threat with their quick passing whenever possession was turned over.
A gripping first half pretty much followed that pattern, as neither side managed to break the deadlock.
At the hour-mark, a swift move from the back on Italy’s part saw the ball break loose for Federico Chiesa after Aymeric Laporte made a last-gasp challenge to stop Ciro Immobile from going through on goal.
The 23-year-old forward did not falter with just the goalkeeper to beat as he placed his finish in the far corner.
However, La Roja were not done as substitute Álvaro Morata combined with Olmo to equalise just as we were entering the last 10 minutes of normal time.
Their momentum continued into extra time where they certainly had the better chances, but there were no more goals to speak of, so penalties were needed to decide a winner.
After both Manuel Locatelli and Olmo missed the first penalties, a perfect streak from all but Morata (who had a right rollercoaster of a tournament) meant that Italy progressed to the final, with Jorginho pulling off his trademark jump technique to send the Azzurri through.
England vs Denmark
We stayed at Wembley for the second semi-final, which featured England taking on Denmark.
The match was intriguing from the very start, as the Three Lions were able to easily control possession, but their opponents always had the ability to cause problems by using their wing-backs to create overloads.
Just before the half-hour mark, Denmark drew a foul in a dangerous area. Mikkel Damsgaard stepped up to have a pop, and boy did he strike it well as it went well over the wall and dipped just under the crossbar to go in as the first direct free-kick goal of the tournament.
England hit back before half-time, though, as Bukayo Saka got in behind the Danish defence on the right and looked to square a pass to Raheem Sterling, which forced Simon Kjær to score the 11th own goal of the tournament.
The two sides were closely matched again in the second half, although England started to look better as we neared the end of normal time.
Some heroic defending from Denmark took us to extra time, where Sterling won a penalty just before half-time. Harry Kane’s initial effort was saved, but he got to the rebound first and was able to turn it home into an empty net.
Stats courtesy UEFA.
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