Monday 12 July 2021

Sunday 11th July 2021 8pm Italy v England at Wembley Stadium.


The game ended 1-1 after full time, followed by 30 minutes’ extra time that kept the score at 1-1. So penalties followed

The final score 1-1 with Italy winning 3-2 on penalties. Those bald facts disguise so much. As the years and decades role on the facts above will  be the most that a Google search will reveal. Statisticians will see those facts in a  chart of other finals, other scores and other nations names and will draw conclusions of a statistical kind. What they will have lost is what the game meant to me to you, to England, to the UK to our mood , our hopes and our aspirations.

When Marilyn and I woke this morning we switched on the radio to listen to BBC radio 4 news and it was full of heart searching comments  about the match.  Nick Robinson the presenter had a sombre tone.

The whole nation, if they couldn’t be at Wembley among the 60,000 fans permitted into the vast arena of Wembley Stadium  were either watching the game on TV at home, in pubs, clubs, city centres throughout the country or maybe Trafalgar Square with giant screens showing the game to excited crowds. 

Was the game going to relieve the depression of coronavirus and  lockdown? 

Here is my kick by kick account as the match unfolded.

The national anthems of Italy and England took their turn to be played and sung.  60,000 sang God Save The Queen.

The two teams took the knee at the start of the match in respect for Black Lives Matter. There are things more important than football. A buzz of expectation and then ”Sweet Caroline,” rang round the ground, a whole mass of impromptu choristers belting it out at lung bursting intensity. The atmosphere was electric. I could feel the emotion and the tension coming out of the television screen.

The captains exchanged flags at the centre spot. A close up of Giovanni Di Lorenzo the Italian right back hands in prayer eyes to heaven . Rather obtusely a remote control model car painted in LGBT rainbow colours delivered the ball to the centre spot.

The referee in pink. The Italian team in blue. England wearing all white.

At exactly 8pm the referee blew his whistle and Italy kicked off.

The crowd roared. ENGLAND! ENGLAND! ENGLAND!


1 minute. A slow, calm, measured start. Italy passed the ball along their defensive back line. England got the ball and also moved at a slow pace passing it around, feeling their way into the game. Italy and England, two prize fighters sizing each other up warming to the,” battle,” beginning. A faster tempo takes over.. The crowd hushes, near silence but still a buzz murmurs about the stadium. Maguire gives away a corner to Italy. Maguire clears. He is a dominant confident defender. Harry Kane strides down the right. Crosses it.  The ball arcs over the Italian players and a couple of England players to the left and Luke Shaw gliding swiftly into positon, in one glorious fantastic movement strikes the ball like a bullet from a gun and GOAL!!!! England score! 1-0. What a fantastic goal. The crowd go wild. The England players are euphoric. We, are all euphoric. 2 minutes and 12 seconds into the match and England lead. The Italians looked rocked. England players look elated. The crowd is elated.

After the restart a   cynical tackle by the Italians. England free kick. Is this how it’s going to be?

Shaw challenges Chiesa, the Italian’s mercurial star.  Free kick near the England penalty area. Pickford sorts out the defence. Close up view of England supporters praying.

Insigne shoots high over the bar. Mancini, the Italian manager looks pensive. Gareth Southgate, England’s manager frowns, hands in pockets. Sterling, gets a free kick. Italy are looking unsure, not exactly rattled but searching for a way to play.. England are looking confident. Italy take out Harry Kane . Very physical. Italy are going to play tough its obvious. The game has burst into life. Its all hell for leather.

11 minutes. England cross into the Italian area. Lorenzo puts it out for an England corner, The crowd expects.

13 minutes. Jorginho gives away another corner to England. Italy looking shaken. Not sure how to handle the England team. Struggling to break down England.

16 minutes. Italy beginning to attack more. They seem to have got the measure of England now.This game is far from over. The Italians are trying long range balls up to their attackers missing out the midfield.

Mancini doing a lot of shouting from the side-line. The sound of the crowd buzzes likes waves of rising and falling energy. An elemental force.

20 minutes. Trippier makes a long run through the Italian midfield and defence. He forces a throw in. He takes the throw, a long arcing lob into the Italian penalty area. Its smothered by the Italian defence.

23 minutes. The England defence are looking strong and secure.

27 minutes. Italy looking frustrated again. England seem in control once more.

30 minutes. England free kick  but in our own half. England seem to be controlling the game for the time being. Italy now passing the ball, keeping it but still unable to break down England.. The pace has slowed. The usually well-oiled Ferrari engine of the Italian is unsure, trying to work it out. A spanner in the works perhaps.

35 minutes. Chiesa slices through the England defence and shoots just to the right of the goal. Pickford nowhere near it. England escape. In a counter attack Luke Shaw penetrates the Italian defence. He is playing well. He gets a probing cross into the box. No England players there to finish it. Where was Harry Kane?.

39 minutes. Italy attack. England defence secure, strong, robust, they still  look confident.

40 minutes. Italian free kick. Dangerous. John Stones clears with a header.

44 minutes. Italy attacking strongly at the end of the half but England hold out.

 4 minutes added for extra time. England need to get to half time with a clean sheet.  Italy are  not the force we were all expecting. The crowd roar. “ENGLAND! ENGLAND! ENGLAND!”. John Stone blocks a strike on goal. Italy dangerous all of a sudden.

 47 minutes Now England attack. Shaw and Kane slice through the Italian defence like a hot knife through mozzarella,cheese.. Italy clear. The crowd whistle. A shrieking storm of whistles. Bonucci has a long shot that is easily gathered up by Pickford.The crowd cheer.

49 minutes . The referee blows his whistle for half time. The score 1-0 to England.

Television pundits in the studio.

Gary Lineker, “Half way there folks.”

Alan Shearer, “ England have been absolutely fantastic.”

Alan Shearer.” We didn’t let them settle.”

Jurgen Klinsman on the touch line. “Oh my God, it’s rocking here.”

SECOND HALF: Things get intense:

46 minutes. Both teams are cagy at the start of the second half. England must keep up the tempo. What can Italy do?

46 minutes. Kane taken out by Nicolo Barella.  Italian frustration showing.

Sterling goes down in the Italian area. The referee is in a good position. No penalty.

49 minutes. Italian free kick on the edge of our penalty area. Lorenzo Insigna takes it. Shoots. Close, but past the post.

England really need a second goal to be secure.

51 minutes. Italy attack. England defence break down the Italians. It goes nowhere. Insigne  is the most dangerous Italian player at the moment.

53 minutes. The Italians make substituions. Imobile off.

55 minutes. England free kick. Luke Shaw takes it.OOOH!! Maguire heads over the bar. Crowd chant. ENGLAND! ENGLAND! ENGLAND!

56 minutes Italy dangerous, getting chances. Italians putting us under a lot of pressure. England need to weather the storm. Italy keep possession. Warning signs for England now. Declan Rice surges forward for England. England defence are playing well frustrating Italy.Chiesa makes a great shot. Pickford dives to his left and makes a brilliant save.

62 minutes. England corner. Stones heads but the ball is guided over by the giant Italian goalkeeper, Donnarumma.. Chiesa is beginning to cause problems for England.

66 minutes. Italy score!!!!!A scramble in the England defence and Bonucci slams the ball into the net from close range. Opportunistic. Television camera close up of Pickford. He is angry. Gesticulating at his defence. 

68 minutes. The centre is taken. 

There is an uneasy feeling around Wembley. Italy have started to  enforce their authority on the game. What is going to happen next? Italy now are attacking strongly. They have been revitalised. They have the bit between their teeth. England have not dominated at all in the second half. They have stopped playing. Shaken by the Italian goal.

70 minutes. Saka on for Trippier.

Gary Lineker commentating in the TV studio.” Must be a shift in formation now. Perhaps a 4-3-3 formation?”

72 minutes. England need to get back on the front foot.

73 minutes. Benucci gets contact on a crossed ball. Very close.

Henderson is now on. Italy are breaking through at will. England on the ropes.


75 minutes. England seem to have lost their way. Need to be brave, Need to press higher. In their own half too much at the moment.


MarcoVeratti fouls Maguire . Free kick.

The Italians seem to be all over the England players.

Camera looks at the England crowd. Praying, hands together, concerned faces. The Italians look lively on the attack. England worried, desperate.

Italy attack swiftly again. England look uncomfortable.

80 minutes.  England must move up a gear. Worrying times. England fans tense, subdued.

Chiesa injured on the side line. Chiesa takes to the field again. He is one Italy’s best forwards. We could have done with him staying off.

83 minutes. England with a chance. We are attacking, pressing again. England have suddenly come to life. We can HOPE!! Insigna fouled Trippier. Yellow card. England free kick. Cleared. Shaw shoots too high.

85 minutes. Chiesa off. Bernardessi on. Chiesa must have been more badly injured before than he thought, than we thought.

86 minutes still 1-1. England supporters sing out. “Football’s coming home.” I wonder. Is it?

88 minutes. Great attack from Sterling. It takes a few Italian defenders to stop him.He’s like an electric eel working his way through them.

90 + 6 minutes. Injury time. Sterling attacks again. Gets a free kick in England’s half.

93 minutes. Italy stalking England. England doing their best to keep them at bay. So tense all around Wembley. Italy playing with fa freshness and a freedom all of a sudden.

95 minutes. Chiellini literally gets Mount by the collar of his shirt and pulls him to the ground.  Mount was about to break free on the attack. Cynical, calculated. Chiellini is yellow carded. A professional foul.

96 minutes. The referee blows his whistle for full time. Its 1-1 with Italy on the up.

30 minutes extra time to be played.

Both team squads get into their respective close circles. Mancini in the middle of the Italian players. Southgate crouches forward, hunched , tense in the middle of the England players. He looks impassioned, resolute, determined driving home his points to the team.

. The whistle goes for the start of  extra time. “COME ON ENGLAND!!” Belloti comes on for Insigne.

Southgate has made no changes so far.

Emerson blocks Henderson.

5 minutes. Sterling attacks down the wing and earns an England corner.

5.54 Varrati off Locatelli on. Mancini is making the changes.

The ball comes  to the edge of the area and Phillps has a shot. He pulls it wide to the left of the post.

8.47 Jason Mount off. Jack Grealish on. Can HE do anything?

Grealish and Saka attack the Italian defence slicing through but take the ball too far, between them, for a goal kick.

11.34 England must attack. Italy nearly score but the England defence  scrambled the ball away.

13.29. Worrying moments.

15 minutes +1 Italy still on the attack. Hand ball. England free kick. Luke Shaw to take. Shoots wide.

Half Time in extra time.Whistle blows. Exhausting emotionally for us who watch and those who play. The England team must be shattered. Unbelievable.

16 minutes. Are Italy playing for penalties? The nightmare approaches.

England must remain positive.

3 minutes to go. Sancho and Rashford on. Henederson and Walker replaced. Is this in preparation for penalties? Why do England do this?

28 minutes. Italy are playing for penalties now surely.  Italian corner. That was close.

34 minutes gone. Referee blows his whistle. It ends at 1-1.


OH NO!!!

Penalties: Italy won the penalty shoot out. 3-2.

Did England lack creativity throughout the game? If they did, so did Italy. But what is it about the psychology of England players, maybe there is something particular about English football, maybe our national psyche that prevents us, always, from winning penalty shoot outs? What does taking a penalty make an England player feel in this high pressured emotive moment?

Marilyn , at the start of the match wondered if the black players like Rashford and Saka would face abuse online. It has proved so. They both missed penalties but the cruellest abuse is that meted out to  Bukayo Saka, merely 19 years old. He missed the deciding penalty. He is a  teenager for goodness sake!. It is appalling that he or anybody should suffer racial abuse. It will stay with him for the rest of his life. What does abuse say about us as a country as people of one nation?


The radio 4 discussion, Marilyn and I lay in bed listening to,  with Nick Robinson, about the game was tinged with disgust at the  terrible racist abuse online after the match targeted against Marcus Rashford  and Bukayo Saka.

 We are all being asked to behave responsibly when lockdown and all restrictions are removed from our lives from the 19th July.Personal responsibility is very important, we are all individuals and have to make balanced  decisions about our lives. But it appears personal responsibility has a nasty side. Racist abuse is prominent it seems. Boris Johnson, Pretti Patel and other Conservative ministers rebuke those who take the knee in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. They don’tsee the point. Our government does not understand societies response to the statues of colonialists and slave owners that dot our country. They deny systemic racism exists in Britain. Are they therefore responsible for racists feeling they can abuse the black players? Responsibility should come with understanding and balance with regard to others. Are we as a society capable of that? The,” libertarians,” have pushed for an opening up of society from the coronavirus lockdowns. They get their wish from the 19th July. In the light of disgusting responses to our defeat in the Euros are some people incapable of being trusted to do the right thing though?