The final of Euro 2021 was built up by the sports media as a tremendous spectacle. The game pitted a young English Lions team against a sturdy and battle-tested Italian Gladiators.
Playing at home under the arch of Wembley stadium, the English fans turned out to see their team bring the title home, having won their last title in 1966.
On the other hand, the Italians were planning to spoil the party and bring the trophy back to Rome. The game and fallout that unfolded can best be described as good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Good-The Game itself
The game started in an electrifying manner for the home team. The Italians uncharacteristically made a sloppy mistake in the middle of the park with the English pouncing.
Harry Kane released Kierran Trippier with a nice play on the right, who then put a brilliant cross to left-back Luke Shaw, who volleyed in a sweet shot past a helpless Gianluigi Donnarumma in the Italian goal. The goal was scored after just 2 minutes of play and was the fastest goal in Euro finals history.
As the game wore on, the English team fell into the trap of trying to defend their goal and being too deep, which brought intense pressure on the backline.
Finally, in the 67th minute, the Italians equalized as Bonnuci bundled the ball over the line following a corner kick and mad scramble in the box. In extra-time, England was in the ascendency but failed to convert their chances.
They came to rue their missed opportunities in penalty kicks. England lad in the penalties 2-1 after Jordan Pickford saved Andrea Belotti’s penalty.
However, England failed to convert three straight penalties agonizingly to lose 3-2. The game had a tremendous start and a dramatic ending.
In fact, according to guardian.com, “England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy was one of the most-watched moments in British television history, attracting a combined peak audience of 31 million viewers.” Of course, millions more watched the game right around the globe.
The Bad-Ticketless Fans Almost Derail the Spectacle
The English fans were eager to see their team take home their first trophy in 50 years and were desperate to see them do so in person at all cost. Unfortunately, dozens of ticketless fans decided to break into the stadium before kickoff to try to see the historic game for free.
The stewards were outnumbered and overwhelmed, and as a result, several spectators made it to the stands. It was a bad scene to see on television with ticketless fans pushing, shoving, trampling stewards and other fans to get into the stadium.
The Guardian reported three days after the final that England’s defender Harry Maguire’s father and agent were among those injured during the mayhem. McGuire stated that his father was “struggling with his breathing afterward because of his ribs.”
UEFA has launched an investigation into the fan behavior, and it could lead to a stadium ban for one or more future England home games. England was also charged and will be fined for offenses relating to a pitch invasion, throwing of objects, the booing of the Italian national anthem, and the lighting of a firework. The behavior of fans at the stadium was certainly a sore point for the showpiece final.
Ugly-Racist Social Media Attacks
English fans were rightly disappointed not to have won the match and walk away with the trophy. In the eyes of most fans and pundits, Gareth Southgate’s decision to sub-in Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho at the end of the extra time for the penalty kicks was disastrous.
An even bigger criticism was the decision to make a talented but young 19-year-old in Bukayo Saka take the decisive penalty in the shootout. The three players failed to convert their penalties, and after the game, it was reported that they were targeted on social media for racial abuse.
It is quite depraved to think that a disappointing loss in a football match would lead people to send racially abusive messages and death threats to a player. These players led their team to the first major final in 55 years and came up just short of their remarkable goal.
The young Lions team dared an entire nation to dream after decades of disappointment. Saka was left in tears after failing to convert his penalty, which showed the heartbreak the young man suffered in that instant. Happily, skysports.com has reported that 5 individuals have been arrested for the vile messages sent to the players.
Sadly, the racial abuse of the next player is literally right around the corner because it happens time after time after almost every disappointing result in Europe’s domestic football leagues. Yes, despite the attempts to ‘kick out’ racism, it nearly marred the ending of a truly remarkable tournament. However, the Italians will rejoice because the title has gone back to Rome.
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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