On 6 July 2021, Jorginho took a deep breath and exhaled while expanding his cheeks. It was as if he was standing in a yoga class and not to take the last spot kick (penalty kick) in the European Championship semi-finals. That moment was the biggest moment of his career. Jorginho focused himself, controlled his heart palpitations, and made a task easy that the pressure makes too difficult. After that he made a small jump. Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simone was seen leaping to the other side and leisurely putting the ball into the goal. Italy has reached the final of Euro 2020.
Now let’s go back four years. In the year 2017, the date was 14 November. Jorginho fought for the full 90 minutes against Sweden. He was his team’s best player on the pitch at Milan’s San Siro Stadium, but when the referee blew the last whistle, Jorginho, like his fellow players, collapsed on the pitch and burst into tears.
Italy had missed out on a place in the 2018 World Cup. This was the first time in 60 years that Italy was not going to play in the World Cup. The next day, the headline in the country’s leading sports paper ‘La Gazzetta dello Sport’ was La Fine or The End. Darkness descended on Italian football, but a new dawn was not far away.
Going back a little further from here, the 1990 Football World Cup was going to be the most memorable tournament of Roberto Mancini’s career. After winning the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup title for his club Sampdoria at the age of 25, Mancini was now ready to shine in the World Cup in his home country Italy. But this dream of Mainchini could not come true. Despite being a star of Italian club football, Mancini did not get to play a single minute throughout the tournament.
After 4 years he had a chance to play in the 1994 World Cup, but three months before the start of the tournament, angry with coach Arrigo Saatchi, he decided not to play in the World Cup and retired from international football at the age of just 29. . Years later, he admitted that it was a huge mistake.
Almost 24 years after playing his last match in the Italian jersey, Mancini got the chance to be part of the Italian team once again, but this time as coach. Mainchini began his coaching career at the age of just 37, when he was given the responsibility of Fiorentina in 2001. For the next 17 years, he won many titles with different clubs in Italy, England, Turkey and Russia.
After taking over the command of the Italian team in May 2018, Mancini gave the team a new identity. Manchini himself understands the pain of not being able to play in a big tournament. That’s why he made it clear that there is no star in the team and all the players play unitedly, then only the target can be reached. The second change he made in the style of play. Italy, which had always been known for its strong defence, Mancini, kept it intact and insisted on the attack. The results of the hard work of the last 3 years are in front of everyone. Italy are unbeaten for 33 matches in a row and on Sunday they have a chance to win a major title after the 2006 World Cup.
On the other hand, the Football League of England is the richest league in the world. The league of 20 teams made up of well-known clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool had a total income of 6.2 billion euros in the 2020-21 season, i.e. approximately 548 billion rupees. The world’s top players want to play in this league and English clubs have done very well in club matches. English clubs have won two of the last three UEFA Champions League titles.
But when it comes to the England national team, only years of disappointment are visible there. England has won just one major tournament in its history – the 1966 World Cup. Apart from this, he could not even reach the final of any World Cup or Euro. This situation finally changed at Euro 2020. Now Garth Southgate’s team has a chance to remove the pain of almost 6 decades.
When Southgate was made the permanent coach of the England team in November 2016, many were surprised. England fans had only bitter memories associated with Southgate. Southgate was the only player who missed his kick in a penalty shootout in the Euro 1996 semi-final against Germany at Wembley. After that Southgate’s identity remained confined to that. Whenever there was talk of England’s failure, there was mention of that night at Wembley.
But now Southgate has a chance to enter his name in the list of England’s greatest managers. Reaching the final of Euro 2020 after the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup clearly shows the progress England has made. England have plenty of fast, aggressive players like Jack Grealish, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden etc., but Southgate took a pragmatic and cautious approach. Fans and experts kept asking him to change his style, but Southgate stuck to his decision. As a result of that, England have conceded just one goal in 6 matches played in Euro 2020 and now they are on the threshold of making history.
The Euro 2020 final on Sunday night is a chance for both teams to regain lost glory and honour. But after 90 minutes or extra time or penalty shootout, the trophy will be in the hands of only one team. Fans in England are confident ‘It’s coming home’ while fans in Italy claim ‘It’s coming to Rome’.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.