After Spain dominated possession in the first half, Federico Chiesa scored on a counterattack to give Italy the lead in the 60th minute. But Álvaro Morata came off the bench to equalize for Spain in the 80th, and neither team found the breakthrough over 30 minutes of extra time.
The Italians will face the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between England and Denmark in London, with the final — also at Wembley Stadium — set for Sunday.
“The players and everyone that has worked with us over the last three years deserve a lot of credit because it wasn’t easy by any means,” Italy Coach Roberto Mancini said through an interpreter at the postgame news conference. “Almost no one believed we could do it, and yet we are into the final.”
After the shootout opened with goalkeeper Unai Simón denying Italy’s Manuel Locatelli and Spain’s Dani Olmo skying his effort over the goal, both teams’ shooters were on target until Donnarumma lunged to his left to deny Morata in the fourth round. That set the stage for Jorginho, a Champions League winner with Chelsea this past season; he caught Simón leaning to his right and coolly tucked his penalty in the opposite corner to set off the Italian celebration.
The match was a clash of powerhouses, with the nations boasting four European titles and five World Cup crowns between them. Spain’s semifinal run seemingly marked a return to form for a nation that won three straight major titles from 2008 to 2012, then crashed out early at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups and Euro 2016, where it lost to Italy in the round of 16.
But the Spaniards only won one game in the Euro 2020 group stage, then needed extra time to oust Croatia in the round of 16 and a shootout to defeat 10-man Switzerland in the quarterfinals.
“It’s not a sad night for me, not at all,” Spain Coach Luis Enrique said. “Of course, it’s a bit of disappointment, but that’s elite football — you have to be able to win and lose. … I think we go home knowing that we competed and that we were one of the best teams at the competition.”
Enrique made three changes to the team that defeated Switzerland, handing Eric García his third start of the tournament in central defense, swapping in Mikel Oyarzabal for injured winger Pablo Sarabia (abductor) and opting for Olmo in place of Morata. Mancini made one adjustment from the squad that bounced top-ranked Belgium, starting Emerson at left back after Leonardo Spinazzola suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in Friday’s quarterfinal.
Spain asserted itself in the first half, controlling 65 percent of the possession and outshooting Italy 5-1. With Barcelona phenom Pedri pulling the strings, the Spaniards knocked the ball around with ease, occasionally unlocking the Italy defense through smooth passing patterns.
Still, the opening goal proved elusive. Pedri’s incisive through ball freed Oyarzabal in the box, but his first touch evaded him. On Spain’s best chance of the half, Donnarumma got down quickly to deny Olmo from 11 yards.
“In the first half, we really struggled to play our football because Spain really showed what a top side they are,” Chiesa said. “… But we showed desire, determination, and we all dug in and defended well.”
Amid the lack of possession, Italy countered by repeatedly threatening to expose Spain’s high defensive line. Emerson beat Simón to a long ball down the flank on one golden opportunity, but Spain’s back line scrambled to keep Italy from launching a shot at the empty net. And the Italians nearly went ahead seconds before halftime, when Emerson struck woodwork with an angled blast.
The match opened up after halftime as the teams traded chances. Only a late intervention from Giovanni Di Lorenzo stopped Spain winger Ferran Torres from tapping in Olmo’s teasing cross. Oyarzabal carved out space down the right flank and teed up Spain captain Sergio Busquets, whose curling effort sailed inches high. At the other end, Simón did well to corral Chiesa’s low bid.
Italy opened the scoring when Donnarumma sparked a counter by rolling the ball into the path of Marco Verratti, who found Lorenzo Insigne on the left flank. Although a subsequent service from Insigne was broken up by defender Aymeric Laporte, Chiesa pounced on the loose ball and picked out the far corner with a bending strike.
Bringing on Morata in search of the equalizer, Spain nearly found it in the 65th minute when Koke’s clipped ball into the box just missed the head of Oyarzabal.
Spain pulled even with 10 minutes left in regulation. Collecting the ball near midfield, Morata burst forward, executed a textbook give-and-go with Olmo to pull apart the defense and calmly beat Donnarumma from close range for his team-leading third goal of the tournament.
The Spaniards pushed for a winner before the end of regulation, nearly earning a penalty when Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini inadvertently touched the ball with his arm, but German referee Felix Brych waved off their appeals. Spain went to extra time for the third time in nine days and, eventually, its second straight shootout.
“We knew that it was going to be a very tough match because, in terms of ball possession, Spain are the best around,” Mancini said. “… However, we wanted to make it into the final, and we kept trying right until the end. And, as ever, penalties are a lottery.”
— Thomas Floyd