The positive, on this most blasted night? Only that, with this young England team, it is unlikely to be 55 years before the nations treads this path again.
And they may be better prepared the next time, if it is soon enough. These players, even this manager, hardened and experienced by nights like this; defeats at the hands of opponents who ultimately held their nerve in this most unforgiving of arenas. Who knew the course and distance, even far from Rome. Italy won by penalty shoot-out. Maybe they edged the match, too. They are further ahead of where England stand now. Just. But perhaps they won’t always be.
Bukayo Saka was inconsolable at the end. He missed the vital one, the fifth. But Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford missed, too. Italy won 3-2 from the spot. It wasn’t the highest quality contest. Too much at stake, as always.
The rest of it will feel too raw right now, too painful. England led from early but were worn down by Italy’s press and pressure. Ultimately, though, the best team won. Italy shaded it, but open play could not separate them. So it came down to penalties. Again. It almost made it worse, that sinking feeling as the match ebbed away.
Jadon Sancho could only bury his head in his hands as he came off the bench but missed a penalty in the dramatic shootout
Marcus Rashford was also sent on for the shootout but he was left devastated after his penalty went wide of the Italy target
Rashford saw goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma dive to his left and he sent his effort to the other corner but struck the post
Jorginho looked to seal it but Jordan Pickford shovelled his low strike onto the post to give England late, faint hope of a win
Leonardo Bonucci was on hand to poke in for an equaliser as Italy came from behind to level against England at Wembley
The Juventus and Italy defender stood on the advertising boards in front of Italy’s supporters to celebrate his crucial goal
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford urged team-mates to switch on again after seeing their lead disappear to Italy
Italy’s players rallied around Bonucci after the goal and they looked to take control of the final on Sunday at Wembley
Luke Shaw sparked wild celebrations after his goal inside 120 seconds gave England a dream start in the Euro 2020 final
Shaw found himself unmarked at the back post and he struck the ball sweetly on the half-volley to fire England into a 1-0 lead
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (right) could do little to react in time as the Manchester United full-back struck first
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with their son George, were captured celebrating the early goal for England
Shaw (left) has enjoyed a brilliant tournament and he raced off with his arms outstretched to celebrate the opening goal
Anyone who has ever trotted out the cliché about an early goal settling the nerves has plainly never scored one in the opening two minutes of a final. Did it hell. If anything, Luke Shaw scoring from England’s first attack of the game actually increased the tension, because now Gareth Southgate’s players really had something to lose.
Yet would it have been any different, whatever had happened? Probably not. England have not travelled this path often, if at all in most lifetimes.
There was a mania around the stadium, a frenzy. Footage of ticketless fans storming the perimeter fences, gaining legal entry to the stadium. UEFA denied it. Those with eyes on the place would contest they lied. Social distancing in the upper tiers was not replicated below. People stood wherever they could to get a view. Was it Covid safe? Of course not. If UEFA admitted that, the game couldn’t go ahead. So they pretended what we all saw happen, did not happen.
And then something equally unbelievable unfolded before our eyes. England scored, from their first attack. Given what happened from their last attack in a major tournament final, that made it two goals in little more than two minutes in consecutive Wembley finals. The problem being they were 55 years apart.
Italy’s players, including Federico Chiesa (right), were left stunned by the early set-back as England took immediate control
Italy boss Roberto Mancini (right) wore a scowl as he watched his side’s Plan A crumble following Shaw’s early finish
There was overwhelming support inside Wembley Stadium for England as there was huge demand for the Euro 2020 final
Mason Mount once again started, this time as part of a front three, and he was paid plenty of attention by Italy’s defenders
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) posed for a photo at Wembley in an England shirt alongside Hollywood star Tom Cruise (second from right), former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton (second from left) and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (left)
Ironically, the goal came when many feared nerves were affecting England, too. Harry Maguire had misjudged his first pass of the game and put it out for an Italian corner.
Yet no sooner had the locals turned to each other to opine sagely that England needed to settle down, ease into the game, relax, the ball was in the back of the net. What a move it was too, started and finished by one of the men of the tournament for England – Luke Shaw.
He began by feeding Harry Kane, who was in a deep position – what’s he doing there asked those who haven’t been paying attention this summer – and he strode through Italy’s midfield before picking out Kieran Trippier on the right. Kyle Walker went on a rapid overlap but Trippier ignored him. He was looking to the middle for a target, delaying, delaying, until he got clear sight. And then a figure emerged.
Tripper’s cross travelled over Raheem Sterling in the middle and fell instead to Shaw, arriving deep left. He has never scored for an England. What a time to change that narrative. The ball pitched directly in front of him, so much so that at first it was thought he volleyed it. He didn’t. Shaw struck the ball on the slightest of half volleys, off the inside of the near post and past goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. What a goal: 119 seconds on the clock.
Sterling says he used to hear the Wembley roar growing up at his house nearby. This one might have shaken the panes at the Southgate residence in Harrogate.
On the touchline, the manager allowed himself one understated clenched fist punch; with 88 minutes plus injury time to go, it doesn’t do to go full Alan Pardew.
The trophy for Euro 2020 was stood on a transparent plinth prior to the match as both players had their eye on the prize
Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini was less-than-impressed with England midfielder Declan Rice following a late challenge
Harry Kane, who caught fire in front of goal after last-16 win over Germany, was met with a sliding challenge by Marco Verratti
Lorenzo Insigne stretches to control a long diagonal as Italy struggled to create chances in a testing first 45 minutes
Insigne tried his luck from a free-kick on the edge of the box but found his curling effort sail harmlessly over England’s bar
Kane was seen barking instructions to his team-mates as England faced increased pressure from Italy in the second half
There followed a 20 minute spell when England had Italy reeling. They couldn’t get in the game, indeed looked stunned by developments. Gradually, that changed. This is a very good Italian side, unbeaten in 33 matches to here. The potential for danger was never far away. In the eighth minute a foul by Shaw, albeit more of a collision as he pointed out, resulted in a free-kick which Lorenzo Insigne put over the bar.
After 35 minutes, Federico Chiesa finally got away from the mighty Declan Rice and struck a low shot just wide. In between, Italy toiled without threatening. It was only in the 50th minute, when Sterling bundled over Insigne and referee Bjorn Kuipers gave a free-kick on the edge of the D that England appeared vulnerable. Insigne put it wide, to deafening cheers. Yet pressure was always going to build, in the circumstances.
Sterling appealed for a penalty early in the second-half but Kuipers was having none of it, and it seemed rather a risible attempt. More justifiable was the yellow card shown to midfielder Nicolo Barella for a foul on Kane. He was replaced soon after.
Yet Italy’s grip on the game grew stronger. Insigne cut in on the left and forced a fine save from Pickford after 57 minutes and then, five minutes later, England’s goalkeeper was outstanding, parrying a low shot from Chiesa. Now England were rocking. John Stones’ header forced a save from Donnarumma after Mason Mount’s corner, but it was a brief respite. From Italy’s next corner, came the equalising goal.
The moment England were not first to the ball at the near post, they were in trouble. The ball flew to Marco Verratti who won the physical battle with Mason Mount and steered his header goalwards. Pickford tipped it onto the post but Leonardo Bonnucci was first to react, the winner of an old-fashioned goalmouth scramble.
Tails up, Italy might have finished it minutes later. A long ball over the top found Domenico Berardi who broke through England’s defensive ranks and beat Pickford in the chase, shooting over.
Raheem Sterling was a nuisance once again and he drew a foul and a booking on Italian centre back Leonardo Bonucci
Sterling was felled in the box but appeals for a penalty were quickly waved away by the referee as Italy pushed on for a goal
England goalkeeper Pickford gave some choice words to Chiesa after he went down holding his face looking for a foul
A pitch invader managed to infiltrate pitch security to bring proceedings to a temporary halt during the second half of play
The pitch invader was all smiles as he was captured by security and was escorted off the pitch so the match could continue
Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was sent on as Gareth Southgate shuffled his attacking options in extra-time in search of a goal
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS AT WEMBLEY
Italy: Donnarumma, Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson Palmieri (Florenzi 118), Barella (Cristante 54), Jorginho, Verratti (Locatelli 96), Chiesa (Bernardeschi 86), Immobile (Berardi 55), Insigne (Belotti 91).
Subs not used: Sirigu, Pessina, Acerbi, Bastoni, Toloi, Meret.
Booked: Bonucci, Insigne, Chiellini, Barella, Jorginho
Goals: Bonucci (67)
Pens: Berardi (SCORED), Belotti (SAVED), Bonucci (SCORED), Bernardeschi (SCORED), Jorginho (SAVED)
Manager: Roberto Mancini
England: Pickford, Walker (Sancho 120), Stones, Maguire, Trippier (Saka 71), Phillips, Rice (Henderson 74 (Rashford 120)), Shaw, Mount (Grealish 100), Sterling, Kane.
Subs not used: Ramsdale, Mings, Coady, Calvert-Lewin, Johnstone, James, Bellingham.
Goals: Shaw (2)
Pens: Kane (SCORED), Maguire (SCORED), Rashford (MISSED), Sancho (SAVED), Saka (SAVED)
Manager: Gareth Southgate
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland)
Player ratings by Sami Mokbel at Wembley