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Italy still celebrating Euro 2020 victory

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This is the teams first major title since it won its fourth World Cup 15 years ago and the win gave the team its first European Championship title since 1968.

Italy was still abuzz with excitement the day after the national football team's dramatic win over England in the final of UEFA Euro 2020.

The Azzurri's 3-2 penalty shootout victory after a 1-1 draw was the main topic of conversation at coffee bars and bus stops among both serious football fans and casual observers. Italy's main cities erupted into celebration after the game, with crowds cheering, car horns blaring, and fireworks shooting into the air almost until sunrise on Monday.

The victory was front-page news on almost every news site in the country. By the time of the final shootout, 78.7 percent of televisions in the country were tuned in.

"It was a great night to be an Italian," exclaimed Alice Balotelli, a 40-year-old shop worker who told Xinhua she got to sleep around 4am following the victory. "You never feel as much national pride as when the national team wins a big championship."

From a historical perspective, the Italian team is among the most accomplished in the world. But this is the team's first major title since it won its fourth World Cup 15 years ago and the win gave the team its first European Championship title since 1968. Three years ago, Italy failed to even qualify for World Cup for only the second time in its history.

Fans of Italy celebrate after Italy won the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match, in Rome, Italy, on July 12, 2021.

All that changed this year. Along the road to victory, Italy defeated three of the six teams ranked ahead of it in FIFA's world rankings, last updated in May: top-ranked Belgium, No. 6 Spain, and No. 4 England. The Italian side has now won 24 consecutive international matches, one short of the all-time record held by Spain between 2007 and 2009.

"The contrast from not qualifying to participate in the World Cup in 2018 to winning this now is something that makes the victory even sweeter," Matteo Spaziante, a journalist with the publication Calcio e Finanza (Football and Finance) told Xinhua.

Spaziante said the fact that Italy is emerging from months of lockdown and health restrictions tied to the COVID-19 pandemic also added to the euphoria of the victory.

"Before Sunday's game, I was thinking about how much of a boost Italy would get from a victory," Alessandro Ruggiero, a city worker who was discussing the victory with friends at a coffee bar on Monday, told Xinhua. "But that made me worry because I thought that as much as a win would excite people, a loss could leave us devastated. Luckily the team pulled it out. What a relief!"

The team returned to Rome from London on Monday afternoon. Soon afterwards, the newly-crowned champions are to have an audience with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who was on hand to watch the match in person.

According to Spaziante, the big win could be a turning point for the Italian team in terms of confidence as well as finance. Spaziante said Federcalcio, football's governing body in Italy, is likely to see an influx of cash from sponsorships, ticket sales, and the sale of branded merchandise (he noted that on the Federcalcio website, almost all the team merchandise for sale was sold out on Monday). That means they'll have more money for player development.

"In the short run, I think we can assume Italy will be one of the favorites for the World Cup in 2022," Spaziante said. "Over the long term, I think this could set Italy up for success for many more years." 

Fans of Italy celebrate after Italy won the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match, in Rome, Italy, on July 12, 2021.

Published : July 13, 2021

By : xinhua