London (AFP) – Spain’s Euro 2020 ended in familiar fashion, with a blunt attack unable to deliver the result a dominant performance between both boxes deserved, as Italy progressed to the final on penalties.

Luis Enrique’s men enjoyed 65 percent possession and had 20 attempts on goal to the Italian’s 11, but were once again punished by the lack of a clinical finisher to make the difference in the final third.

In keeping with his tournament, Alvaro Morata was both hero and villain.

The Juventus striker came off the bench to score a late equaliser to make it 1-1 and take the game to extra time, but missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out.

Morata misfiring was how Spain began the Euro with two disappointing draws on home soil with Sweden and Poland.

La Furia Roja looked to have turned a corner with 10 goals in two games against Slovakia and Croatia in the last 16.

But after squeezing past 10-man Switzerland on penalties in the quarter-finals, they ended the tournament having won just one of their six games in normal time.

“For me it is not a sad night,” said Luis Enrique. “This is elite sport and you have to know how to win and lose.

“I said before the tournament we were one of the eight favourites (to win the competition). I don’t think I was wrong.

“We go home with the reassurance of knowing we competed and we were among the best.”

After a tumultuous three years on and off the field, just making the last four was no disgrace for a Spain side in transition.

– ‘Illogical’ Pedri –

Luis Enrique was appointed to oversee a changing of the guard in 2018 after the side that won three major tournaments between 2008 and 2012 grew old and stale.

Tragic personal circumstances saw him briefly leave the role when his daughter was diagnosed with bone cancer and died aged just nine in 2019.

After leaving out long-time captain Sergio Ramos from his squad, he shrugged off criticism as “child’s play” compared to what he had been through.

Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were the only survivors in this squad from Spain’s last major tournament triumph at Euro 2012, when they thrashed Italy 4-0 in the final.

The Azzurri may have won the night in front of 60,000 fans as Wembley at last sounded like it used to on the big occasion before the coronavirus pandemic.

However, there were plenty of positives to suggest Spain could have the brighter future heading to the World Cup in 18 months if they can find a goalscorer.

Italy’s 33-game unbeaten run under Roberto Mancini owes much to the midfield control offered by Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella.

But Spain took the ball from them with 18-year-old Pedri pulling the strings to cap a sensational tournament.

The Barcelona midfielder completed all of his 55 passes in the 90 minutes despite being pushed to the physical limit by his manager.

Despite Spain’s campaign ending with three straight games that went to extra time, Pedri sat out for just one of his side’s 630 minutes across six matches.

“What Pedri did, I have not seen of an 18-year old in any major tournament,” added Luis Enrique.

“How he performed, how he read the game, his quality, his personality for these type of games. It is something illogical.”

Pedri’s club teammate Ansu Fati is another 18-year-old that could add more firepower to Spain’s front line for Qatar next year should he recover from a long-term knee injury.

But Spain’s lack of a prolific striker has consistently held them back since the days David Villa and Fernando Torres were in their prime and proved their Achilles’ heel once more.

Original Source
Author: AFP

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