It was a nail-biting and edge-of-the-seat 120 minutes of play and nine of extra time, plus the agony of penalty shootout before Italy denied England a much-awaited end to half a century silverware drought.
The game was Euro 2020 final. The match was played at Wembley. But football went to Rome.
As penalties began, Harry Kane went first for England. The Italian keeper went the right way. But the power and speed left him with no chance.
Then Pickford saved the Italians’ second kick. Maguire scored and Marcus Rashford hit the upright, while the keeper saved Sancho’s.
Pickford saved again to restore hope for the Three Lions. But Saka then saw his saved for Italy to win, leaving players in tears of joy and despair, depending on which side you are, and the image of ‘ITALY’ being engraved in the cup breaking the hearts of over 68 million English.
Earlier, a second-minute goal by Luke Shaw, his first for England, looked good enough to end the Three Lions’ 55-year silverware draught. But no.
The goal shocked the Roberto Mancini-tutored side into action.
But the legendary English resilience couldn’t have found a better expression in the way the players repelled wave after wave of Italian attack and counter-attack.
That was until the 67minute, when Leonardo Bonucci nipped home from a goal scramble to equalise for Italy.
As the Englishmen tried to stem the Italian forceful play and high pressing, the game became physical, with the baying crowd as the 12th player for their respective teams.
Gareth threw in Bukayo Saka for Kieran Trippier at 70 minute and Jordan Henderson for Declan Rice four minutes later.
He was to remove the Liverpool skipper for Rashford when it became obvious penalties will decide the king of Europe.
Balance returned, with both sides threatening. It was the sixth minute of the six minutes added time that Saka almost bursts down the flank when England got a relief from the high pressing Italians.
But Bonucci pulled him down tactlessly and got a yellow card.
For Gareth Southgate, it was déjà vu. Not only was Southgate’s penalty saved in Euro 1996, that semi-final penalty shootout was against Germany, knocked out by England on their ride to Euro 2020 final.
It is the first time England have played in the final of a European Championship and also England’s first tournament final since the 1966 World Cup.
For now, Euro 2020 cup Brexit to Rome, leaving behind celebration parties that never began, while Italy bubbles with a 53-year wait over.’