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Three things we learned from Italy v. Spain

Joe Prince-Wright, Andy Edwards and Nick Mendola break down their takeaways from a dramatic semifinal round of EURO 2020, including England's continued tactical versatility under Gareth Southgate.

Italy and Spain staged an engrossing 120 minutes of European Championship semifinal action on Tuesday at Wembley only to require penalties to decide who would advance to Saturday’s final.

Federico Chiesa and Alvaro Morata scored second-half goals but neither team could produce in extra time and the teams went to penalties.

Manuel Locatelli and Dani Olmo lent more drama by missing each side’s first penalty but the next five were successful before Morata missed and Jorginho slotted the winner for Italy.

Italy is now one win away from its first European Championship since 1968 after taking down Spain 1-0 in a EURO 2020 semifinal at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.

Roberto Mancini’s Italians will meet England or Denmark in the EURO 2020 Final on Saturday.

Spain, the winners of the 2008 and 2012 editions of this tournament, just couldn’t cut through Italy’s experienced center of the pitch and leaves Luis Enrique when some impressive statistics but nothing shiny.

Three things we learned from Italy v Spain

1. Would a mistake make the difference, a moment of brilliance, or both? The final notion, thank you very much, as Gianluigi Donnarumma was quick to restart play for Italy after collecting the ball and Italy had Spain on its heels in the 61st minute as Federico Chiesa completed a breakneck team move to make it 1-0. And really Spain should’ve had at least two goals through Mikel Oyarzabal, who got a first-half chance stuck in his feet and was denied by Emerson Palmieri, then couldn’t turn a Koke pass home shortly after Italy took the lead.

2. Spanish possession is real: Boy, does Luis Enrique like to have hold of the ball. The first hour of play saw Spain with almost two-thirds possessions and that is not far off from their EURO 2020 standard. There are so many players capable of holding onto the ball and so many including Koke, Sergio Busquets, and Aymeric Laporte who’ve been on possession-loving clubs for some time.

3. Italian heart proves strong: With Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, and Jorginho all holding plenty of experience (Jorginho by far the youngest at 29), it’s very difficult to get to the guts of their third of the pitch. Few did, and Spain’s lone big chance before Morata’s equalizer was stymied by Gianluigi Donnarumma, a mountain of a man who was left out to dry in the 80th minute (admittedly by Chiellini).

Man of the Match: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Surely Spanish fans grimaced knowing that the ageless Giorgio Chiellini was a big part of what Italy did well at the back, while Sergio Ramos was busy picking a club rather than collecting a 181st Spain cap. But it was the man behind Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci who started the Italian goal and saved Morata’s poor penalty.

Italy v Spain recap

Nicolo Barella struck the post with a deflected shot within four minutes of kickoff, the Italians sending an attacking message with their early play.

Spain then set up shop, as it’s wont to do, maintaining possession and finding real danger in the 12th minute only to see deputizing left back Emerson Palmieri cut out the danger.

A Barella error allowed Ferran Torres a low drive toward goal in the 15th, but the Man City man missed wide.

Unai Simon added to his errors in the 21st minute but Spain’s defenders bailed out their keeper.

At the other end, the first proper save of the night came from Italy’s “new” Gigi, Donnarumma, as Buffon’s protege (of sorts) delivered a fine 25th-minute save on Dani Olmo.

Emerson then nearly beat Simon just before halftime, but it went to the break 0-0.

The second half saw Spain start well and Sergio Busquets well-advanced from his usual digs when he puts a charge into a shot over Donnarumma but also the crossbar.

But it was Chiesa who appeared to get a famous winner in the same year he scored the winning goal for Juventus as The Old Lady beat Atalanta in the Coppa Italia Final.

Hold on, though! Morata started a 1-2 with Olmo and got behind Chiellini to beat Donnarumma to the near post with 10 minutes left.

Follow @NicholasMendola