Gianluigi Donnarumma was Italy's hero as he saved from Bukayo Saka to clinch a 3-2 penalty shootout victory over England after a 1-1 draw in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.
Jordan Pickford saved two of Italy's spot-kicks, yet it was his counterpart who came up with the goods to clinch the Azzurri's second European Championship title.
It was a night that started so well for England, with Luke Shaw scoring the quickest goal in a Euro final.
Yet mounting Italy pressure told when Leonardo Bonucci scored midway through the second half, and after late substitutes Marcus Rashford hit the post and Jadon Sancho failed to beat Donnarumma in the shootout, Saka fell foul of Italy's goalkeeper as England suffered heartbreak on home soil.
It could hardly have started better for England.
Harry Maguire's sloppiness handed Italy a second-minute corner, but before the clock had ticked into the third, England struck.
Kieran Trippier – the sole change to England's starting XI – was released by Harry Kane and delivered a cross which Shaw volleyed in off the upright at the back post.
England might have had a second had Mason Mount managed to find Raheem Sterling, yet after withstanding a blistering 20 minutes, Italy had found their feet, and Federico Chiesa drilled just wide at the culmination of a typically powerful run.
Italy's probing picked up momentum after the restart, Pickford making a fine stop from Chiesa's crisp strike.
Their equaliser arrived with 23 minutes remaining, Bonucci tucking home after Pickford nudged Marco Verratti's header onto the post, becoming the oldest player to score in a Euro final in the process.
Bonucci almost turned provider moments later, a delicious ball over the top met by Domenico Berardi, who volleyed over.
Kalvin Phillips arrowed wide as England looked to exert some authority in extra-time, with Gareth Southgate turning to Jack Grealish to offer inspiration from the bench.
Jorginho was fortunate to see yellow for a rash challenge on Grealish, and it was Bonucci who missed the chance to prevent penalties when he headed wide from Federico Bernardeschi's corner.
It looked as though Jorginho's reprieve would punish England when he stepped up to take what could have been the winning spot-kick after Rashford had clipped the upright and Donnarumma denied Sancho, but Pickford – who had kept out Andrea Belotti's effort – made a brilliant stop.
Though England's hopes were dashed within seconds, youngster Saka unable to get past Donnarumma, who secured Italy’s first Euro triumph since 1968.
What does it mean? From missing out in Russia to European glory for the Azzurri
Giorgio Chiellini – a towering presence throughout – suggested Italy's squad believed Roberto Mancini was "crazy" when he outlined his intention to win Euro 2020 after he took over a team that had failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Just over three years later, Italy are European champions, and mounting a serious argument against the Azzurri deserving the crown would be futile.
Over the 120 minutes on Sunday, they did control proceedings, having 19 shots (six on target) and 65.6 per cent possession. England, who had the backing of the majority of the crowd, can only consider it a chance missed, though the stats of six attempts – and two on target – tell their own story.
Chiesa the impetus but Italy's defence the bedrock
At 36 and 34 respectively, there were some questions over Juventus pair Chiellini and Bonucci heading into the tournament, not least the final, with the attacking talent at England’s disposal.
Yet the duo were imperious at Wembley, with Kane limited to zero shots and no touches in the Italy box.
At the other end, Chiesa was superb once again, his running power and tenacity a major outlet for Italy, with his three attempts second only to Lorenzo Insigne (five).
Penalty hoodoo returns for Three Lions
This was only the second Euro final that was decided by penalties (also 1976), and England have now won just two of their nine shootouts in major tournaments, though they did beat Colombia in 2018.
It seemed that Italy’s experience finally told. Perhaps not with their penalty takers – Pickford holding his end of the bargain in that regard – but rather England’s youthfulness ultimately costing Southgate’s team.
Saka, 19. Rashford, 23. Sancho, 21. Southgate acknowledged afterwards he chose the takers, and perhaps if he had his time again, he would have gone for more experienced players. Italy, meanwhile, became the first side to win two shootouts at a single edition of the tournament.
Key Opta Facts
- Italy, now unbeaten in 34 matches, have won their second European Championship title, and first in 53 years (also 1968); it is the longest ever gap between championships in the tournament by a single nation, surpassing Spain's 44-year wait from 1964 to 2008.
- The Azzurri have now won six major tournament title – four World Cups and two European Championships. Only Germany (seven) have won more among European nations.
- Italy found themselves trailing in a game for the first time at Euro 2020, while overall they spent 65 minutes behind against England in the final, 21 more than they had been behind in their 33-game unbeaten run (in all competitions) coming into the final (44).
- At 1 minute 57 seconds, Shaw's opener (his first ever goal for England) was England’s quickest ever in the Euros and the earliest Italy have ever conceded in the competition.
- At the age of 36 years and 331 days, Chiellini is now the third-oldest player to appear in a European Championship final, after Jens Lehmann for Germany in 2008 (38y 232d) and Arnold Mühren for Netherlands in 1988 (37y 23d).
Italy will reconvene for a World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria in September as European Champions, while England will lick their wounds. They next play against Hungary, and the Qatar World Cup will surely be a target.