class=”styled__BannerImage-sc-1wadlxz-1 iLJqYu styles_articleMainImage__Lj_Qv”>Devastation for Steven Gerrard as England exit a major tournament on penalties once again at Euro 2012

Devastation for Steven Gerrard as England exit a major tournament on penalties once again at Euro 2012

Throughout Euro 2020, we have been looking back at classic games from previous tournaments. Today’s featured match is Italy’s penalty shootout victory over England at Euro 2012 – the last time tonight’s finalists met at a European Championship.

All change for England

England entered Euro 2012 with a new manager at the helm, after Fabio Capello’s shock departure just four months before the tournament.

The Three Lions had been unbeaten during qualification under the Italian coach, but a disagreement over the Football Association’s decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy saw him resign as England boss.

West Brom manager Roy Hodgson was appointed in his place, having guided the Baggies to a top half finish in 2011-12 – their highest position since 1981.

A solid start

This was by no means a vintage England squad but Hodgson set about doing what he does best – making a team greater than the sum of their parts.

Performances were solid, if unspectacular, as the Three Lions topped a group containing France, Sweden and hosts Ukraine with two victories and seven points.

That was more than their quarter-final opponents Italy, who had to settle for a runners-up spot after a draw with Croatia saw them finish behind Spain in one of Euro 2012’s toughest groups.

Pass masters

Joe Hart was instrumental in keeping Italy at bay during their Euro 2012 quarter-final clash
Joe Hart was instrumental in keeping Italy at bay during their Euro 2012 quarter-final clash

England’s defensive resilience was given the ultimate test by an Italy team who were vastly superior over 120 minutes.

Despite a strong start from Hodgson’s charges, the Azzurri dominated possession, controlled the game and had the better opportunities throughout the match.

The peerless Andrea Pirlo pulled the strings in midfield all evening, attempting 131 passes – more than three times the number attempted by England’s top passer Ashley Cole (44).

Yet the Three Lions stood firm, as a backline marshalled by the superb John Terry and Joe Hart kept Cesare Prandelli’s side at bay and took the game to penalties.

Penalty pain

Mario Balotelli kicked off proceedings in the shootout by stroking the ball past his Manchester City team-mate Hart and into the bottom left corner, before Steven Gerrard fired in a similar effort to level things up.

Then there were cheers from the England faithful in Kyiv as Riccardo Montolivo failed to hit the target and Wayne Rooney unleashed a powerful spot kick to put his side ahead.

But that joy was to be short lived.

Pirlo’s nonchalant panenka penalty wasn’t matched by Ashley Young, who crashed his effort against the crossbar.

Antonio Nocerino calmly converted Italy’s fourth, before Gianluigi Buffon dived to his left to keep out Cole’s weak shot and hand the advantage back to the Azzurri.

It was left to Alessandro Diamanti to finish the job and he made no mistake – consigning England to their fifth penalty defeat in their last six shootouts.

Italy's players celebrate their penalty shootout victory over England
Italy's players celebrate their penalty shootout victory over England

Future finalists

Italy made it all the way to the final of Euro 2012, but there was to be no happy ending for Prandelli’s outfit.

After an impressive 2-1 victory against Germany in the semi-final, they were beaten 4-0 by defending champions Spain, who made history by becoming the first country to retain the trophy.

England’s future under Hodgson was similarly unsuccessful – they crashed out of the 2014 World Cup at the group stage without a single victory, before suffering the humiliation of defeat to Iceland in the last-16 of Euro 2016.

It’s been a long route back to the top for both sides, but one country is set to taste glory once again when they meet at Wembley for tonight’s European Championship final.

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EnglandItalyEuropean Championship