“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

This proverb is so apt for Italy’s manager Roberto Mancini, who was in tears following a dramatic penalty win over England at Wembley in the Euro 2020 final.

Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka’s spot-kicks after Marcus Rashford hit the post for England in the shootout. Italy clinched a 3-2 victory, following a 1-1 draw after extra time, despite Jordan Pickford denying Andrea Belotti and Jorginho from the spot.

The setback

Sunday’s tearful celebration after beating England in a penalty shootout to win the European Championship was in stark contrast to the scenes in 2017 when the players slumped to the ground in disbelief after failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

The defeat against Sweden in the 2017 play-off was termed as the darkest hour in Italian football history.

Mancini was appointed coach of Italy’s national team, whose players have lost trust in their abilities. Mancini replaced Gian Piero Ventura,

The turnaround

Mancini has turned things around by focusing on tactics and style of play. As a result, Italy’s free-flowing, attacking system is in contrast to the often turgid soccer the team played during Ventura’s tenure.

He has successfully reinstated self-belief in the Italian side, and the Azzurri are currently on a 34-match unbeaten run. They last lost in September 2018 against Portugal. Roberto Mancini’s men will be closing in on the all-time record of Brazil and Spain, who were unbeaten for 35 straight matches.

Tactical changes

Italy has traditionally been a defensive team, where the priority has always been not allowing their opponents to score rather than trying to win the game first.

However, there was a gradual decline in performance at major tournaments. After failing to qualify for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup knock-out stage, they could not even make it to the 2018 edition.

Mancini’s Italy is different from his predecessors; they operate with goalscoring wingers who cut in from the flanks, allowing full-backs to prosper in advanced wide areas.

Key players

Left-back Leonardo Spinazzola was undoubtedly Italy’s best player before he sustained an injury in the quarterfinal win over Belgium. His attacking runs down the left wing were a feature of Italy’s breathless displays.

Having the best midfield trio at Euro 2020, with Jorginho and Insigne excelling, has also helped, as has the move to a high press.

Then there was Italy’s defensive duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, who bring a wealth of experience to blend with the Azzurri’s rich pool of young talents.

The partnership of Chiellini and Bonucci at the back has reached iconic levels, especially now that they are European champions. Bonucci also scored the equalizing goal in the final.

At the goal, they have Gianluigi Donnarumma, player of the Euro 2020. The first goalkeeper to win the award at a European Championship — primarily because of the saves he made in Italy’s penalty-shootout victories in both the semifinals and final. He was an imposing presence throughout the tournament, and he is just 22.After all the ups and downs in the last four years, the Italian players were again in tears at Wembley, but it was out of joy this time. Nevertheless, the tears in their eyes have the entire country smiling again as they are European champions again after 53 years.

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