Luke Shaw opened the scoring for England in just the second minute to get Wembley rocking, before Leonardo Bonucci levelled the scores and took the match to penalties.
Italy 1-1 England (3-2 pens): Shootout agony for Three Lions – 7 talking points.
Substitutes Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all saw their kicks saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma in the shootout.
The Three Lions took the lead in just the second minute when Luke Shaw fired home from Kieran Trippier’s cross for the fastest ever goal in a European Championship final with the strike bringing Wembley to its feet.
The hosts were galvanised by that and swarmed all over an Italian side that looked as though they were unable to match England’s power, only for the Italians to eventually turn the screw towards the end of the first period.
Federico Chiesa tested Jordan Pickford with a low effort before Leonardo Bonucci tapped home from close range for a deserved equaliser.
The match then headed for penalties, where Insigne & Sterling – the No. 10 showdown.
Here are the game’s talking points.
1. Gareth Southgate’s change immediately pays dividends
Southgate is a lot more than just a good, honest bloke, he’s also good at formulating a pre-match plan.
The inclusion of Trippier over Bukayo Saka and subsequent switch to a back three with wing-backs was one that formed the centre of the pre-match debate, but clearly, the England boss knew what he was doing.
In the absence of the impressive Leonardo Spinazzola, there was always going to be a question mark over Emerson Palmieri on Italy left, and sure enough, it was the space in front of the Chelsea man that England looked to exploit early on.
Trippier drifted into that huge hole to the side of him and Lorenzo Insigne, and with no one deciding to close him down he had the freedom of Wembley to pick out the advancing Shaw.
What followed may have sent a country crazy, but you sense it was the result of a meticulous plan.
2. Luke Shaw deserves better than the constant Mourinho mentions
Sure enough, just as night follows day, the name of goalscorer Shaw was almost immediately followed by that of Jose Mourinho within seconds of his crisply struck shot hitting the back of the net.
But do you not get the feeling that Shaw himself is a bit tired of all that by now?
Yes, it happened, and yes, Mourinho was out of line with his criticism as he has been before and probably will be again, but so what? It is ancient news now.
Shaw is far more relevant to the modern game than his former Man United manager has been for a while, and instead of focusing on what was once said about him how about, we shift our focus to the current opinion?
While Mourinho’s words might make for a convenient narrative beginning, Shaw has been consistently good for some time now.
Isn’t it time we all just moved on?
3. England, and Declan Rice, get physical
It wasn’t just Southgate’s change of shape that was getting England on top in the first half, but it was also the pace and power of his players as they got themselves around the pitch and into the faces of the Italians.
Declan Rice was key to that, with the frankly enormous presence of the West Ham man seemingly putting the fear of God into Roberto Mancini’s men at times.
There was a 15 minute period in the first half when he seemed to be everywhere, and that physicality was a little too much for Italy as they found themselves somewhat overwhelmed.
A Premier Legue vs Serie A question? Or something a lot more simple than that?
Rice was just very good, and Italy couldn’t handle him for a while there.
4. Federico Chiesa provides the thrust for Italy
In Italy’s attack, it was Insigne who provided the decoration and Ciro Immobile who was the frustrated, largely anonymous one, but Chiesa shone as a player with a bit more to his game.
The quicksilver Juventus attacker has caught the eye in this, a tournament he wasn’t even in the team at the start of, and his largely direct approach seemed to worry England every time he got the ball.
Insigne is probably the better purer footballer, but Chiesa would doubtless be the player you’d hate to play against more.
He was relentless, and his teammates could have done with following his lead earlier.
5. Harry Kane digs deep
It was interesting, and probably a bit blustery, to see Harry Kane suggest that he had a slow start to the tournament because, well, he was saving himself for the latter stages.
Maybe it worked as a device to worry Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, but for much of the game, he wasn’t even in the vicinity of the Italian central defenders anyway.
Hd was dropping deep and winning free-kicks, something that he seemed to decide was his main aim in this game from the moment England went ahead.
You can’t fault that of course, but it also meant that he was often somewhat curiously passive in England’s attacks.
He looked, dare we say it, a little weary, and that was the case for England as a whole as the match ticked on.
6. Marco Verratti’s tenacity draws Italy back into it
Sure it was Bonucci’s goal, but did you see the part that Marco Verratti played in it?
The little midfielder was imposing his tenacious qualities on the game throughout the end of the first half and then into the start of the second as the Italians turned the screw, and it was him that nipped in front of Mason Mount to get his head to the corner that led to the equaliser.
It was a vital intervention in a vital performance.
7. Southgate’s lack of changes see England become sluggish
England were lacking in energy in the second period and, as Italy began to swarm all over them and turn the game in their favour, they began to struggle to string passes together.
Southgate possesses one of the deepest squads in the tournament, and while you really can’t criticise him for so much of what he has done this summer, his in-game management could really use some work.
Even in extra time, his odd use of subs continued, and you were left wondering if he really believed in what he was doing.