Thank you and good night
Well, talk about a whirlwind night of Euro 2020 action. We don't want it to ever end!
But end it must, alas, and now we know that Italy will be on one side of the pitch at Wembley on Sunday when the curtain rises on the grand finale of this tournament, one that looks set to have triumphed against all logistical odds thanks to its heroics on the field.
And who will they face? Well, we'd recommend joining us again tomorrow to find out - as England look to turn their dream of a first major final since 1996 into reality and Denmark aim to keep their fairytale dream alive.
Until then however, thank you for joining us - and we'll see you next time out!
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2 - Italy have become just the second side in European Championship history to have as many as five different players (Chiesa, Pessina, Insigne, Immobile & Locatelli) score 2+ goals at a single edition of the competition, after France in 2000. Collection. #EURO2020 #ITA #ESP pic.twitter.com/waxc3K7JAl— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 6, 2021
Luis Enrique hails Pedri impact
The brutal twist of tonight's match is that Spain arguably had the best five players on the pitch throughout at various points in terms of performance - and few were better than teenager Pedri.
The Goal NXGN pick certainly earned Luis Enrique's plaudits, with the coach's debrief of his side's exit waylaid by his praise for the youngster.
"Have you seen the tournament that Pedri has played?," he says. "I've never seen an 18-year-old kid play like I've seen Pedri play in this tournament, not even Andrés Iniesta. It's crazy."
Pique disgruntled by penalty shootout
Former Spain legend Gerard Pique has opined on Twitter that La Roja were punished in having to go second in the penalty shootout today, pointing to recent history as cause for his frustration.
“It’s no coincidence that in the last four penalty shootouts at Euro 2020 and the Copa America, the team that went first won,” he tweeted. “Statistics show that going first leaves you with more options and in a tournament like this it doesn’t seem fair to me that a draw should make you start at a disadvantage.”
Spain, of course, enjoyed superior statistical advantage in every department - except goals - tonight. It really is a cruel game sometimes. For every winner, there has to be a beaten foe - but that will be scant consolation to La Roja after that performance.
Donnarumma: Spinazzola inspired us in video
Chalk another fine night up for Gianluigi Donnarumma - the shotstopper was crucial to ensuring that Spain never got too far out of sight for Italy throughout, even after the Azzurri had taken the lead.
Speaking to Sky Sport Italia, he's revealed that they have had contact from the injured Leonardo Spinazzola, stating: “There was everything at that moment, it wasn’t easy, but with the strength of this group, we managed to get there.
“It’s impossible to describe what I am feeling, I want to enjoy this win my teammates and we dedicate the win to Spinazzola, he had sent us a video before the game."
Italy pay tribute to Spinazzola
End of the road
Chiesa: Italy will recover for final
Having gone through the emotional wringer tonight in playing out a penalty shootout, Federico Chiesa knows that Italy must recover - though he tells Sky Sport Italia that they have the time to do so, while praising their falled opponent.
“It was a very tough game, Spain are a top team, but we’ve proved to be a strong group,” he says. "There are a few days to recover now, but we’ve played every three games this season, so we are ready, we’ll have enough time to recover."
Spain bow out with record haul
Mancini: It's not over yet
Extracted from the throng of celebrations - which will surely continue into the night for many fans leaving Wembley - Roberto Mancini has paid tribute to his players with RAI Sport, while warning that they must remember there is still one more game to go.
“The credit goes to the lads, because they believed in all this three years ago, but it’s not over yet," he says. "We’ve got to gather our strength, what is left, and prepare for the final."
More misery for Morata
Alvaro Morata's tournament ends with him as Spain's top scorer - but it will be scant consolation to the forward.
He came off the bench to restore his reputation tonight, then blew it in the penalty shootout to effectively end La Roja's chances.
It's a tough blow on the attacker, who didn't look comfortable walking up to take his spot-kick. Here's hoping that he bounces back even stronger than before, to prove his naysayers wrong; he's got the talent, that's for sure.
Azzurri notch another final
Italy confirm favourites' tag
They may have seen more Spanish heels than the ball throughout this game, but surely dismissing Italy as the proverbial favourites now is out of the question?
This was not their worst performance of the tournament by any stretch, even with possession robbed of them so frequently. That they still found a way to beat a side who were afforded every opportunity to down them shows character, and a dash of luck too.
That's a winning combination. The only concern they may have is that they have had to play two extra-time knockout ties to get here, which neither England nor Denmark have had to contend with yet. But they remain unbeaten, with little conceded at the back; their reputation remains fearsome.
Spain make unwanted history in defeat
1 - Spain have failed to progress from a semi-final of a major tournament (World Cup/Euros) for the first time in their history, having previously reached the final in each of their previous five semi-final appearances. Dumped. #Euro2020 #ESP pic.twitter.com/gNMvQidV96— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 6, 2021
Azzurri secure first final in nine years
La Roja downed in dramatic finale
Oh, the agony, the cruelty of sport. We brought up a game between Spain and England a few years ago earlier on, when Gareth Southgate's side claimed a famous victory with very little ball, picking their chances and punishing La Roja's missed opportunities.
Luis Enrique's side have been undone in a similar fashion tonight - except it came through a penalty shootout in tournament football in the end, and there is not much more heartbreaking than that in sport.
Roberto Mancini's side should take a bow however. Outgunned throughout, they seized their chances when locked in the prism of a tough match and they have been rewarded with the sweet joy of a first final since Spain thrashed them at Euro 2012. Their unbeaten streak stretches on to one final challenge.
ITALY BEAT SPAIN TO REACH EURO 2020 FINAL
FT: Italy 1 (4)-(2) 1 Spain
Delight for the Azzurri - and devastation for La Roja!
It is Italy who will be at Wembley on Sunday evening, claiming revenge for their Euro 2012 finale loss to La Roja by booking their spot in the Euro 2020 Final at their expense. Poetry in motion for Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci; heartbreak for Sergio Busquets and the superb young guns under his eye.
Roberto Mancini, so sharply composed in his suit normally, has a grin the size of Portugal on his face. He has marched this side towards the summit of world football - and they will get a chance to confirm their place in history this weekend now.
Luis Enrique looks impassive. It is a bitter pill for a man pained so much in recent years to swallow. Surely, after turning their campaign around to get here - and falling short only just shy of the final hurdle - he has earned his future here.
Italy 1 (4)-(2) 1 Spain
It's all over! Italy are going to the Euro 2020 Final with the cheekiest of penalty finishes!
Jorginho steps up and simply rolls a slow effort into the right corner, with Simon frozen on his line. His team-mates race towards him - the Azzurri have done it at the end in superb high drama!
Italy 1 (3)-(2) 1 SpainFrom zero to hero and back again! Alvaro Morata sticks it slowly to the right, not far enough across, and Donnarumma has an easy save. The next one to win for Italy.
Italy 1 (3)-(2) 1 SpainTry picking that one out! Straight into the right hand side, despite Simon's efforts, from the substitute.
Italy 1 (2)-(2) 1 SpainNo mistake from the substitute, who puts it low into the left corner as Donnarumma goes the wrong way.
Italy 1 (2)-(1) 1 SpainThe veteran has missed a few spot-kicks in his time - but this one is coolly rolled into the right corner as Simon goes the other way.
Italy 1 (1)-(1) 1 SpainDonnarumma goes the right way - but he can't get enough on it to prevent it burying in the right side of the box.
Italy 1 (1)-(0) 1 SpainStraight into the left side of the goal, depsite Simon's efforts. Italy have their lead!
Italy 1 (0)-(0) 1 Spain
Gianluigi Donnarumma doesn't even have to save that one! It's over the crossbar, skied by Olmo. A poor penalty and he knows it.
Italy 1 (0)-(0) 1 SpainUnai Simon saves! The keeper reads it smartly, goes low to his right and catches the finish from Locatelli cleanly.
Italy to shoot first
Giorgio Chiellini appears to be giving some serious roasting to acting Spain captain Jordi Alba, as the two hash out the shootout with Felix Brych.
Italy will shoot first at Wembley. Manuel Locatelli will take it.
Can Olmo cap superb performance?
EXFT: Italy 1-1 Spain
Felix Brych blows the whistle and confirms what felt like it could be an inevitable outcome - these sides are going to need a penalty shootout to split them, and send one through to the final of Euro 2020.
No side has ever won more than one bout of spot-kicks at a single European Championship. Spain had to triumph in one against Switzerland to get here.
This exhausting, often giddy encounter is set for a final twist. Gianluigi Donnarumma and Unai Simon are facing a nerve-wracking few minutes at Wembley Stadium.
Time running out for last-gasp heroics
Credit Italy for managing to do enough across extra-time to swing the pendulum away from Spain's fluid pressure across the latter stages of this additional half-hour; they've probably got themselves to penalties now.
Bonucci is booked for a high kick, trying to challenge Morata for the ball, and the Italy man can have little complaints. How he is still running his blood to water out there is strikingly impressive.
Pedri still the Wembley prince
DISALLOWED GOAL: Italy 1-1 Spain
(Domenico Berardi, 110)
My word, hearts in mouths all around Wembley!
A looping ball over the Spain defence following that counter sees Domenico Berardi wrestle a shot into the back of the net to the roar of the crowd - but the linesman's flag is up!
He is comfortably offside, but the threat he possesses looks to have checked Spain's momentum crucially now. That has shaken La Roja a bit.
Spain try inventive free-kick
It's one-way pressure from La Roja again, and a free-kick for a foul on Olmo by Locatelli is swept in by Thiago. It takes a violent deflection off the first man and Donnarumma seizes on it.
Italy offer their first attack of the extra-time period, a sharp counter that highlights they still remain dangerous, but Laporte gets back for a clever piece of defensive work.
Eric Garcia meanwhile has cramped up. Pau Torres replaces him.
Spain have made a switch at the break - and it is captain Sergio Busquets who has departed, having been on a yellow card. Thiago is his replacement.
Italy mull a change but elect to start without it. A minute later, it comes - goalscorer Federico Chiesa, whose name is written into Azzurri history if they progress today, makes way for Federico Bernardeschi.
ETHT: Italy 1-1 Spain
Felix Brych looks at his watch and blows the whistle for the break with no extra minutes added.
Italy have had to do so much defending in this game; they're still in it because they netted a breathless breakaway. If they do go through, they will not care about the fashion they did it in.
With three times as many shots and 70 per cent of the ball though, Spain's devestation will be near-unbearable if they fall short here. It has been a dominant effort on the ball without the finish off it.
Are we in for penalties?
It's frantic stuff around Italy's penalty area now! Donnarumma just beats Morata to a lovely cross and then Chiellini has to deflect a lashed follow-up fired in from the edge of the box before it buries itself in the back of the net.
If this game does go to penalties - and there's an ever-growing chance that it will - who has the advantage? Spot-kicks are such a roulette wheel, and Spain have garnered a poor record for them in recent times, but they did win one against Switzerland to get here.
Italy have dodged shootouts so far, but given how the game has gone for them, you get the impression they'd be delighted to take it.
Italy make lucky escape
Rafael Toloi is booked for a cynical foul on Dani Olmo wide on the left flank and Spain almost make Italy pay dearly. The free-kick is hooked low, and somehow slides straight through the box to Donnarumma.
The keeper looks spooked by it and parries the ball back into the crowded area, where it ping-pongs around wildly before it slips out at the left post.
The time for nice football is certainly over for the Azzurri in defence now though; Olmo is bodychecked aggresively by Pessina a moment later. They're looking to kill the momentum La Roja might have, to take it to penalties.
Small knocks take their toll
There's a string of pauses in play for both sides in quick succession, with Jordi Alba and then Andrea Belotti both spending time on the turf.
Given how much football has been played in recent weeks - and months - you may well be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. This has been an exhausting game to watch - one can only imagine how exhausting it has been to play.
The answer all along?
ETKO: Italy 1-1 Spain
Here we go then - the first half of extra-time is underway at Wembley Stadium!
Felix Brych has helped keep a lid on this one when it comes to tempers flaring, but given the characters on the pitch, one does wonder if the emotional currents of this match could come to the boil sooner rather than later.
Spain set for third consecutive overtime stint
By the end of the next half-hour, Spain will have played extra-time in all three of their knockout games at Euro 2020 to date. Italy will have done so in two games, having dodged an encore against Belgium.
How much do these two teams have left to give? We're about to find out.
FT: Italy 1-1 Spain
We're getting extra-time at Wembley!
Another half-hour - at least - of action is on the way, after Alvaro Morata rode to Spain's rescue from the bench after La Roja saw their possessive dominance cracked by a Federico Chiesa counter-finish.
It is the least that Luis Enrique's side deserve, technically the superior opponent on the ball after crafting a gameplan designed to keep Italy's dangermen away from it throughout. Roberto Mancini's men though have more than played their part in a hugely entertaining contest.
Buckle in, folks - this one ain't over by a long shot.
Three added minutes incoming
Having awarded no additional minutes at the end of the first half, we're in for a minimum of three added minutes.
Spain have a half-hearted shout for a penalty waved away after a Dani Olmo ball gets snarled up in a scramble on the edge of the box, where Chiellini's hand makes contact. It's accidental, as he slips, and Felix Brych ignores the claims.
From zero to hero
Further changes incoming
Insigne and Barella's nights are over for Italy - Roberto Mancini has hooked them for the final stages as he seeks to turn this around, bringing on Andrea Belotti and Manuel Locatelli.
Spain also make a swap, and it is Azpilicueta who bows out, replaced by Marcos Llorente.
Spain sense famous comeback
So much of Italy's approach tonight has been seizing the counter when they can - so how can they respond with a shift in approach across the final few minutes?
Spain are determined to not give them the chance to find out. A corner whistled in close is just nudged wide by an errant head, perhaps Laporte off Chiellini, while Morata caps another superb break with a wonderful cut-back for Busquets, then blazed over the bar.
La Roja have their goal - but right now, it's only going to be enough to force extra-time.
GOAL: Italy 1-1 Spain
(Alvaro Morata, 80)
Redemption for Alvaro Morata!
Frame that one-two and hang it in The Louvre, Spain fans! La Roja have been the better team all night - and now, the fallen son dragged through the mud and dropped for this semi-final crunch has ridden to the rescue.
Through broken play, he snaps up a fine ball on the edge of the centre-circle and rumbles forward. A flick to Dani Olmo on his left releases him to ru free into the box to take the return delivery and he slots a cool finish into the bottom-left corner past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
What a final act we have on our hands!
Miss of the tournament?
Italy make further swaps
Brazil-born Rafael Toloi is on for Emerson, one of the most impressive Italy faces going forward today, as the Azzurri look to shore this one up. Matteo Pessina replaces Marco Verratti too.
Roberto Mancini looks unruffled on the sidelines as he barks out his orders. Luis Enrique appears to be feeling the heat.
It's surely going to take something special for Italy to let this one slip now.
Spain make double change
Mikel Oyarzabal's misses have pained Spain tonight - and Gerard Moreno is on for him now, as Koke makes way for Rodri too.
La Roja have moved to 68 per cent of possession tonight, and yet they look to be heading out of Euro 2020. Given just how much they have wasted, it seems oddly fanciful to think they'll find a goal against a side notorious for keeping their sheets clean in big games.
The minutes are ticking down. The Italy fans around Wembley are absolutely buzzing.
La Roja burn more opportunities
Just how many can Spain miss tonight?! Mikel Oyarzabal has just been teed up for a simple header at the right post by Koke and somehow missed the ball entirely.
He went through the whole motions and just simply missed the delivery that must have passed within an inch of his head. Dani Olmo fires wide with a volley a moment later, pulling a more difficult finish wide of the right post.
Berardi forces an unusual save from Simon down the other end. A second for Italy would surely kill this game off now.
Hear them roar
Spain suffer for squandered chances
Spain have been on the up for most of this match and now, with half-an-hour to play, they find themselves chasing the game to keep themselves at Euro 2020.
It's made all the more bitter by a pair of fluffed chances only moments before, from Mikel Oyarzabal and Jordi Alba - and now, they make a change to put themselves back in the game.
Alvaro Morata is on, for Ferran Torres. Ciro Immobile meanwhile is off for Italy, replaced by Domenico Berardi - Federico Chiesa definitely isn't going off soon after that intervention.
GOAL: Italy 1-0 Spain
(Federico Chiesa, 60)
It was bound to happen eventually! The Azzurri punish Spain for their profligacy in front of goal with a brilliant counter-finish - and take the lead at Wembley!
Aymeric Laporte has just pulled off one of the best covering tackles of the tournament - and it was all for nothing too. He cuts across Ciro Immobile to take the ball away from him, but it falls to the supporting Federico Chiesa.
The attacker steps around two defenders on the left edge of the box and lobs an exquisite finish past a stationary Unai Simon, in at the far post, before wheeling away in imperious celebration. La Roja have been stunned.
Can Pedri prolong superb performance?
Chiesa offers soft test for Simon
Federico Chiesa started this tournament on the bench but has earned his place in Roberto Mancini's starting XI now - and he comes close to almost breaking the deadlock at Wembley too.
It's a top-drawer break involving Lorenzo Insigne through the middle, one that scrambles Spain's defenders to deal with the counter-attack, before the former flicks the ball right to his attacking partner.
A step and a dinked finish forces Simon low, and the collection is not as clean as it could be - but it does the job and sees off the danger.
Busquets booked after strong Spain pressure
Giovanni Di Lorenzo does some top-drawer work to muscle out Ferran Torres as a dangerous ball is looped overhead downfield, and then Gianluigi Donnarumma boxes away the corner spun in from the left edge.
Italy look to bring it away but see their stride checked by Sergio Busquets. The challenge itself doesn't look too bad, but Felix Brych reaches to his pocket and produces the first yellow card of the game for the Spain captain.
Busquets responds by making some frustrated gestures, before lobing a very close finish over the woodwork a moment later following another silky Spain break.
Simon gifts Italy good chance
Good lord, what was that from Unai Simon? He's been caught out a few times tonight and now he puts a clearing kick straight to the edge of his own box and a blue-shirted Italy man.
The Azzurri win a corner, which Spain spirit away to halfway, but then a ball over the top catches Laporte over, putting Immobile through on goal. He slices his finish well wide of the mark and La Roja are let off the hook.
This is a lively opening that's picked up where it left off.
Well, here we go then. For the final 45 minutes - well, regular 45 minutes at least - of one side's Euro 2020 here, we are back underway in this semi-final at Wembley Stadium.
Perhaps surprisingly, given what we saw across the latter stages of the first half on the sidelines, Italy have not made any swaps during the break. Spain have also not rung the changes, but given how they played in the first half, that makes more sense.
This is a huge period of football coming up now.
A long wait
1 - Emerson's attempt in the 45th minute was Italy's only shot in the first half - only versus Netherlands at EURO 2000 (48th minute) have Italy had a longer wait for a shot in a European Championship game since the start of the 1980 tournament. Halted. #EURO2020 #ITA #ESP— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 6, 2021
That lone shot on target...
Mancini set for swaps?
The flurry of activity from Italy's bench half-an-hour in suggested changes might have even come before the break, but Roberto Mancini has not made any knee-jerk calls yet.
The most likely candidate to get hooked appears to be Federico Chiesa - of the three options up front, he has been the one kept quiet the most.
But really, the work on keeping Jorginho muted has been superb too - the Chelsea man has completed only around half as many passes as Sergio Busquets so far.
Pedri the prince of Wembley so far
Shrewd Spain restrict Italy hopes in taut encounter
Take a look at the facts and figures, there is only one winner of the first half - and it is not Roberto Mancini's Azzurri. Spain and Luis Enrique have done a number on Italy unlike virtually any other side at Euro 2020.
Giorgio Chiellini and company have found it hard-going before - last time at Wembley, in fact, they were frustrated by Austria. La Roja have taken a similar tack, but rather than sit back, have opted to hold up the ball sometimes perilously deep into opposition territory.
Yet their failure to convert a rash of chances - five shots, one on target - is something they could yet come to regret. They'll need to ensure that their steady control is not chipped away at more furiously without having something to show for it at the very least.
HT: Italy 0-0 Spain
And just like that, Italy go blindingly close!
Cesar Azpilicueta man-marks Lorenzo Insigne superbly, but the latter still smuggles a ball for Emerson into the left side of the penalty area. He lofts it, brushes the crossbar and puts it behind for a goal-kick.
Dani Olmo darts forth but Felix Brych promptly blows the whistle for the break. There'll be no added time at Wembley; it remains goalless as both sides go into the sheds at the break.
Absorbing half draws near close
Spain have played defense through possession here, and it has worked gangbusters by and large against Italy. The Azzurri executed a shrewd tactical playthrough against Belgium last time out - an attacking first half and a defensive second - but they've not been allowed to get going too often in this one.
But La Roja, for all their ball - they've still had two-thirds of possession in this - have not put it away. If you're an England fan, then memories of Gareth Southgate's side triumphing against them on the road with minimal ball might be springing to mind.
Emerson, pushing forward on the front foot, is the man trying to make things happen for the Azzurri. There's still enough time for this to take a twist before the break.
Oyarzabal misses further chance
A brisk move from Emerson through the middle looks very good for Italy, with all three attackers ahead of the left-back, but he wastes too long picking out the pass he wants, allowing Busquets to basically rob him blind on the edge of the box.
Both sides are getting a little bit tetchy with referee Felix Brych. Shortly after Koke keeps close taps on the Italian midfield, Barella wins a free-kick, one Spain feel is far too soft to concede.
A swift Spanish counter defuses their frustration though, with Jordi Alba and Pedri putting together a superb move - before Oyarzabal goes for a first-time finish on the right side of the box and promptly skies it. These misses may prove very costly for Spain in the end. They've had five shots against none overall.
Alba making history at Wembley
Italy grow after Olmo miss
Dani Olmo considers playing in one or two of his team-mates after he breaks towards the box, but the work from Giorgio Chiellini in defence does enough to shut down his options except go for goal himself.
He blazes over and Italy's subsequent goal-kick almost catches Aymeric Laporte out, with the Manchester City man eventually forced to pull a last-ditch clearing kick to stop Ciro Immobile from bearing down on him.
Lorenzo Insigne now gets in on the action a moment later, and Italy just flicker to life as he tries to take a ball to the goal-line before being forced out at the left post. That's the sharpness they need here.
Azzurri kept quiet so far
The clutch of dangerous throughballs they have offered aside, Italy haven't managed to offer too much going forward - but they have not actually had much of the ball to do it with either.
They've had just 30 per cent of possession so far, though there is a noticable rise in volume around Wembley Stadium whenever they threaten a break.
Roberto Mancini has instructed a clutch of substitutes to go warm up already. Are we in for an early change from the Azzurri?
Donnarumma forced into action
A Dani Olmo backheel is seized upon by Gianluigi Donnarumma - kept relatively quiet despite Spain's chances. But then he's pressed into immediate action a moment later as the forward hacks at a ball inside the box, forcing a low parry to his right, close to the left post.
That's two glowing chances La Roja perhaps should have done better with. Pedri teed up that attempt too; his passing is looking particularly tasty so far in this one.
Will this be a tight one on the scoreboard in the end? We're fast approaching the half-hour mark with nothing to show. Olmo has another half-opportunity on the edge of the box but goes down looking for a free-kick with Felix Brych - who is a doctor himself - is not interested in.
Spain almost caught short at the back
That's a bust of a corner fpr Spain and Italy's fast press means that they have to play it all the way back to Simon before they can look to bring it forward again.
The Azzurri, perhaps surprisingly, have dropped off after that fast-paced first flourish. Roberto Mancini, the coolest cat in town they say, looks particularly animated on the sidelines, as Marco Verratti picks Dani Olmo's pocket inside the centre circle.
Then absolute panic floods Spain's defence as Emerson plays a one-two and tears down the left flank. Simon races out of his box and leaves a gaping goalmouth - yet somehow, despite a square ball back inside, Italy cannot fire a shot towards it, and come away empty-handed thanks to some frantic defending.
Italy offer inventive set-piece chance
Now that's better from Barella as he draws a foul from Busquets, baiting the Spain skipper, to set up a free-kick opportunity over 30 yards or so out from La Roja's goal on the left flank.
This is dangerous set-piece territory and the little dink flicked short almost catches everyone out. Unai Simon reacts just quick enough to get it - and Spain are away on the counter a moment later, winning a corner with some shrewd pressing down the left.
Oyarzabal blows golden chance!
Mikel Oyarzabal will be absolutely kicking himself there - that one was almost on a plate!
Busquets is the man again, wrestling possession through the middle and setting up Pedri towards the edge of the box. He slides a lovely diagonal ball through to the forward and he goes without it as he cuts towards the penalty spot.
Ferran Torres, a few moments later, hooks a low finish wide of the left post after Nicolo Barella offers up a poor ball just begging to be snatched. Now it is Spain who are offering the threat.
La Roja out to defend super semi-final record
Spain have the best 100 per cent progression rate of any nation at the semi-final stage in European Championship and World Cup history, reaching the final from each of their five previous semi-finals appearances. That's a record they won't want to break tonight.
La Roja, pressed back quite hard initially, have gained a sharper control of the ball around midfield now. It's giving them something more concrete to work, structured with patience as they look to keep it away from Italy's potential counter-attackers.
Sergio Busquets is looking particularly concrete in the middle. He's getting on the ball a lot.
Ready and willing
Torres offers early Spain counter
Italy have pushed hard in the first few minutes, flying forward through the middle with impressive pace and verve, but Ferran Torres manages to rustle up a slick counter down the left after a misplaced ball.
His final touch into the box, dinked through for Dani Olmo, is too heavy for his fellow attacker to reel back in, but it's the sort of promising sign Luis Enrique will want his men to show to prove they are in the race here.
The noise around Wembley is a sensuous purr, almost, humming with anticipation. This feels like the start of something special.
Barella hits woodwork with offside chance
Leonardo Bonucci wins an early free-kick deep inside his own half after drawing a smart foul from Dani Olmo, with the latter looking to press hard.
From that, Italy turn out a magnificent opening move - Emerson brings the ball to earth on the left wing and fires a throughball in for Nicolo Barella to snap up. Unai Simon dashes off his line, thinks better of it and tries to back-pedal - and the Azzurri man hits the post.
The flag belatedly goes up for offside against him, but that was a wonderfully weighted opening flash of style from Roberto Mancini's men.
KO: Italy v Spain
It's the last time you'll get to say that Il Canto degli Italiani or La Marcha Real absolutely slap, so you best get that in now.
This is all set up to be truly thrilling - and having overseen England's rout in Rome last time out, Germany's Felix Brych is the man in the middle in London tonight, as match referee.
Giorgio Chiellini and Sergio Busquets, who were spotted exchanging a hug and a laugh in the tunnel before they emerged, shake hands under his watch. No nerves are apparent for either man.
Teams emerge at Wembley
At Euro 2012, it was Spain who beat Italy in the final. At Euro 2016, it was Italy who knocked Spain out in the last-16.
Who will triumph this time? The old hands at the back for the Azzurri, looking for revenge? Or La Roja's young guns, out to restore their nation's place?
We're about to find out - here they come at Wembley Stadium for the national anthems!
Nerves kicking in?
A carnival of sound
Robero Mancini may have been peeved about the difficult arrangements for fans at Wembley today, but he should be grateful that his side aren't playing England in the semi-finals, if he is worried that partisan noise will have a bad effect on his side.
That hasn't stopped a fine selection of Italy and Spain fans rocking up in north London too. It's far from a full house, with restrictions still in place, but on the basis of the noise ringing around the bowl right now, you'd be hard-pressed to say that it will feel quiet.
Italy, unlike the rest of their group, did not have to make the lengthy trip to Baku either, one of the very few stadia that perhaps hasn't quite paid off in this grand experiment.
Bonucci matches Buffon record
Favourites for the top?
If you ask the average punter on the streets of London ahead of tonight's game, they'll tell you - in no uncertain terms - that football is coming home.
But if we disregard the fact England would still have to beat a determined Denmark side with just as much momentum and motivation at their back as the Three Lions, are either of those sides a match on paper for Italy or Spain?
Both the Azzurri and La Roja have some peripheral figures among their squad, of course, in terms of raw quality - but they also have a surplus of crafty, intelligent individuals either veterans of the international stage or stars in the making. Whoever faces either one of them on Sunday will face a very tough task indeed.
Strike a pose!
Eriksen invited to Euro 2020 Final
If Euro 2020 will be remembered for anything beyond its football, it will be the story of Christian Eriksen, who suffered cardiac arrest during Denmark's opening group stage game against Finland.
From the trauma at Parken Stadium that day has sprung a resilient triumph, for both his nation and the spirit of the sport - and now, news has broke that the Inter playmaker, along with the medical staff who helped save his life on the pitch in Copenhagen, have been invited as guests for the final at Wembley on Sunday.
Whether Eriksen is able to make the trip from his home country, where he continues to recover, is another matter but it is a fine gesture for those who have remained anonymous heroes for their part in changing the course of history.
Unbeatable (Part II)?
Morata misses the cut in reshuffle
So then. No Alvaro Morata - and given how Luis Enrique has rushed to the beleaguered forward's defence across this summer, it is a bit of a surprise.
The Atletico Madrid man, who spent last term on loan with Juventus, was the focal point of local ire during those first two group stage matches after fluffing a number of major chances.
But his manager's continued faith yielded a central role in those victories against Slovakia and Croatia - though once again, he struggled to make as much of an an impact against Switzerland in the quarter-finals. He makes way for a more mobile front three that could give Italy's fiendish central defenders something else to think about.
Golden Boot race hotting up?
There's still a prize to play for over these final three games, one that may well go to an individual no longer even in the tournament - the Euro 2020 Golden Boot.
Right now, Portugal's GOAT Cristiano Ronaldo sits tied with the Czech Republic's Patrik Schick on five goals apiece, and as it stands, both would share the honour.
No player from Italy or Spain happen to have more than two finishes to their name so far however, meaning they would need a serious late flurry to challenge. The biggest threat to the gong? England duo Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, plus Denmark's Kasper Dolberg, all on three.
Stay off the park!
Garcia determined to repay faith
While Alvaro Morata's absence from the starting XI tonight is one of the bigger twists in Luis Enrique's selection policy, the choice of Eric Garcia over Pau Torres at the back tonight also could be considered an eyebrow-raiser.
The newly-arrived Barcelona defender struggled for games at Manchester City last term and, by his own admission, was not sure if he would be handed a call-up for the tournament.
Well, here he is now, starting a semi-final at Wembley Stadium for his country. He'll be determined to repay the confidence shown in him by his manager.
Azpilicueta sees shades of Jorginho in Busquets
There's going to be no shortage of intra-club battles across these final few Euro 2020 games, but one that could prove a pivotal tussle tonight is that between Chelsea duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho.
It's only a few weeks ago that the pair of them led the Blues to Champions League glory over Manchester City, but now they find themselves on opposite sides of the divide.
The former is aware of the threat that his clubmate possesses, one of Italy's best players at the tournament so far - but he also sees shades of him in his international comrade Sergio Busquets, who himself could be key to unlocking La Roja's potential tonight.
The Italian Job
Can Italy compensate for Spinazzola blow?
Some may say that a more pressing issue than the number people Italy have in the stands is who they have on the pitch, after they were rocked by two separate incidents during that quarter-final triumph over Belgium.
While Ciro Immobile's "resurrection" antics sparked widespread discussion of poor gamesmanship and the return of the "dark arts" to an often fluidly entertaining Azzurri side, the tournament-ending Achilles injury to Roma's Leonardo Spinazzola is the true hit against the squad's rich form.
The versatile defender has been arguably the form player for his country, save maybe goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, and his absence tonight is a cruel twist of fate for him and his team. Leonardo Bonucci has vowed they will do him proud - but will his MIA status prove too big a blow?
Mancini smarting over Wembley disadvantage
The nature of Euro 2020's pan-continental format means that Italy - and Spain - were blessed with the fortune to play their group stage games on home turf.
But having made it to the last four, both sides are on neutral ground, as are Denmark - with only England set to reap the benefits of a partisan crowd.
Speaking ahead of this evening's clash, Mancini was quick to highlight the "unfair" situation, though the Azzurri boss stressed that the Covid-19 pandemic's impact in the UK - restricting visiting fans to a minimum - has played a significant part in that.
5 - Italy have won all 5 of their matches at #Euro2020, the only side of the remaining final four with a 100% record to date. Only at the 1990 World Cup have they won more games at a single major tournament (6). Power.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 6, 2021
We look at 5 key tactical trends ahead of #ITASPA. ⬇️
Road to Wembley: Spain
Few sides tend to make a massive splash in international tournaments after failing to win either of their first two games - but much like Portugal in 2016, La Roja's slow start has given way to some grit-tooth skill and savviness on the way to Wembley.
Like their three remaining rivals, they played all their Group E games at home, yet their impotent draws with Sweden and Poland suggested that the after-effects of their Covid-19 outbreak would prove their undoing.
An explosive 5-0 demolition of Slovakia put them firmly back in the mix, but they then needed extra-time to defeat Russia 2018 finalists Croatia in an eight-goal Copenhagen thriller - and then penalties to separate them from a determined Switzerland. Will that have taken too much out of the tank?
Road to Wembley: Italy
Of the four teams left, only the Azzurri have won each and every game they've played at Euro 2020 - quite often by some stirring margins on the scoreboard too.
Having opened their Group A campaign with an almost nonchalant dismissal of alleged dark horse Turkey, they followed it up with a further three-goal rout of Switzerland, while a second-string squad side still edged out Wales on Rome.
Their first trip away from their own borders proved the trickiest of their tasks in the end, forced into extra-time by a resilient Austria in at Wembley, before a shrewdly measured performance in Munich saw them beat out Belgium. They've looked effectively untouchable at points - but will that hold tonight?
Unflappable Luis Enrique spins Spanish mood
“Bravo,” jeered Luis Enrique, voice dripping with sarcasm like chocolate running off a dunked churro. The Spain coach had been asked if he would make changes to his team for the last 16 clash with Croatia.
“Maybe I will,” said Luis Enrique, before pausing. “And…?” asked the coach. “Maybe you won’t,” said the reporter, reluctantly. “Bravo.”
Luis Enrique does not have much respect for the media and has made that known throughout his career as a coach. From laughing in the face of an Italian television journalist while at Roma when asked if his team had a psychological problem, to various run-ins during his spell on the Barcelona bench, there has long been tension in the relationship.
How stylish Mancini revived Italy fortunes
Italy suffered one of the biggest humiliations in their football history when they missed out on the 2018 World Cup. It was the first time they had failed to qualify for the tournament in 60 years.
Three years on, however, and they have lit up this European Championship with a breathless brand of entertaining, high-energy football.
Roberto Mancini has overseen an impressive renaissance; he has changed the style and direction of the Azzurri and could be about to deliver a first major trophy in 15 years.
Lineups: Italy v Spain
Lineups: Italy v Spain
Team News: Italy v Spain
Morata benched for La Roja, Emerson replaces injured Spinazzola
Breaking team news ahead of tonight's titantic clash; Alvaro Morata is benched for Spain.
The forward has started all five games at Euro 2020 for Luis Enrique's side but is dropped from the starting XI tonight for this huge game, with Mikel Oyarzabal favoured instead in the middle of a three-man attack.
Emerson meanwhile is the only change for the Azzurri, replacing the injured Leonardo Spinazzola for Roberto Mancini.
Blimey. Full lineups to come shortly.
...but Spain lie in wait
The last major tournament Spain entered, at Russia 2018, was preceded immediately by the managerial fallout of Julen Lopetegui's abrupt dismissal, thrusting Fernando Hierro into the top job, and their preparations three years later have been similarly disrupted.
There has been no coaching merry-go-round at the summit this time, but Luis Enrique's side had to deal with an outbreak of coronavirus inside their training camp mere days before the start of the tournament.
That they have rallied from mid-range contenders blighted by circumstance to reach the last four - albeit through a pair of protracted encounters with two sides where they have made life difficult for themselves, in Croatia and Switzerland - is a testament to their drive to likewise regain their own standing.
Italy poised to seal reemergence...
Having arrived at this summer's rearranged jamboree as something of an outside bet - in spite of their remarkable record under manager Roberto Mancini - Italy confirmed their status as one of the - if not outright - presumptive favourites from who remains standing with an impressive victory over Belgium.
That the Azzurri were able to turn over the world's number one-ranked side - the pre-tournament favourite and de-facto frontrunner after seeing off incumbent holders Portugal in the last-16 - is a testament to just how they've grown in leaps and bounds over the past few seasons.
The middle of the last decade - following a silver-medal slot at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine - has been something of a fallow period for the nation, culminating in their absence from Russia 2018 entirely - but now, they appear to be on the cusp of reclaiming their spot atop the world's best sides.
Last time out...
Some goals, some guts - it's all inside this Euro 2020!
If you missed the quarter-finals over the weekend, allow us to provide a quick refresher. Of the four sides to make it to the penultimate stage of the tournament, only England enjoyed what could be politely termed as an easy ride, drubbing Ukraine 4-0 in Rome with almost suspicious ease.
Denmark too never looked too much like surrendering their lead against the Czech Republic, to set up tomorrow's tussle - but both Italy and Spain had to do it a little bit harder than their rivals to make it here...
Today's order of play
With just three games left to play in this tournament - there will be no third-place playoff down the line for whoever comes up short today and tomorrow in north London - every match is an event fixture now, afforded the standalone respect it deserves.
That means there's one game in town - but what a game it is. At one end is a team unbeaten since 2018, looking to make amends for their absence from the biggest world stage. At the other is a side blighted by pandemic-pained preparations, determined to prove the naysayers wrong.
From Wembley Stadium, it's a game with a little bit of grudge, a rematch of the Euro 2012 Final, when the Azzurri were outclassed by La Roja in Kyiv. It is, of course:
Italy v Spain (2000, London)
(All times BST)
🎉 ⚽️ Welcome to Goal Matchday Live! ⚽️ 🎉
Hello and welcome to Goal's live matchday coverage of Euro 2020!
It seems almost a lifetime ago, looking back to when Italy first walked out alongside Turkey at Stadio Olimpico. But almost four weeks - and a festival of scintillating football - later, we're truly at the business end of the tournament, with just a quartet of sides left standing.
The Azzurri. La Roja. The Three Lions. The Danish Dynamite. Style. Substance. Shrewdness. Spirit. Italy. Spain. England. Denmark.
Only one can be crowned the winner at Euro 2020, only one can become European champion - and tonight, it's semi-final night at Wembley Stadium, with a place in the final for a shot at that prize on the line. Strap yourselves in, folks.