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July 13, 2021

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Italy basks in glory after landing Euro crown

European champion returned home at dawn yesterday to the ecstatic cheers of Italians who spent the better part of the night honking horns, setting off fireworks and violating all sorts of coronavirus precautions to celebrate their team’s 3-2 penalty shootout win over England at Wembley.

Captain Giorgio Chiellini, his fist pumping the air, and coach Roberto Mancini hoisted the trophy high over their heads as they descended from their Alitalia charter flight at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport. Amid cheers from airport workers, defender Leonardo Spinazzola hopped down the steps on one foot, his other one in a cast after injuring himself in the tournament.

“Grazie Azzurri,” read a banner on the tarmac, a sentiment felt across the country after Italy took home its first major trophy since the 2006 World Cup.

The national team was being feted officially by President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Mario Draghi later yesterday, joined by tennis player Matteo Berrettini, who had given Italians another reason for pride on Sunday by reaching the Wimbledon men’s singles final. Berrettini lost to Novak Djokovic, but he joined Mattarella at Wembley Stadium to watch the Azzurri finish 1-1 after extra-time.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the coronavirus last year and has registered 127,775 deaths so far, more than any European country bar Britain.

Most of the restrictions aimed at curbing contagion have been lifted and Sunday felt like a liberation in many squares across the country where the soccer triumph was greeted by an explosion of cheers, blaring car horns and tears.

One person died and several were injured during wild celebrations. A 22-year-old man died in a car crash in Sicily, and in the southern city of Foggia, police believe a hitman took advantage of the chaos in the streets to settle a score, shooting dead his target in the crowd.

In Milan, 15 people were hurt, three seriously. One of them lost three fingers when a firework exploded in his hand.

“You were in front of our eyes. You were in our hearts. The pain of those who have suffered. The hardships of those who have been brought to their knees by the pandemic,” Chiellini wrote on Twitter.

On the pitch, Italy displayed nerves of steel in the shootout, surviving two misses from the spot.

Andrea Belotti missed Italy’s second spot kick but three English misses, including two saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, saw them emerge victorious.

Bonucci stepped up after Belotti’s miss to fire home Italy’s third penalty. Marcus Rashford hit a post before Federico Bernardeschi converted Italy’s fourth spot kick. Donnarumma then saved from Jadon Sancho and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford stopped Jorginho’s effort. The Italian keeper then saved Bukayo Saka’s effort to secure the trophy.


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