ROME, July 7 (Xinhua) — Italy’s thrilling overtime over Spain in the semifinals of the European Championship Tuesday propels the Italians into the final of a major international tournament for the first time in nearly a decade, and, according to analysts, it may well have an impact beyond the world of football.
Tuesday night’s semifinal was a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation. After a scoreless 30-minute overtime period, Italy won 4-2 on penalty kicks to book a place in the final against the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal match between England and Denmark.
The dramatic victory, Italy’s 33rd consecutive win in international competition, was front-page news across Italy.
La Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy’s main sports newspaper, published a splashy headline reading “Party!” That also said “Italy was heroic at Wembley,” a reference to the London stadium that hosted the match. Tutto Sport, another major sports publication, reported, “What Lions!”
The mainstream press was just as flamboyant. Corriere della Sera called the win a “big change of fortune” for an Italian team that failed to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the last major international competition before the current championship tournament. Il Messaggero, the Rome daily, called the game “a masterpiece,” and Milan’s Il Giornale said, simply, “Finally!,” a reference to the contrast between the national team’s string of victories and its poor performance during the qualifying rounds for the 2018 World Cup.
According to Rome’s La Repubblica, the broadcast of the event, which was carried nationally by state broadcaster RAI as well as the digital network Sky, attracted a total of 19.5 million combined viewers, an audience share of 77 percent — a modern-day viewership record.
For most of the last year and a half Italy has suffered under impacts from the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic slowdown. But according to Luciano Mondellini, an author who writes about football-related topics, Italy’s birth in the European Cup finals could have an impact on the country’s national psyche.
“Surely, most people in Italy are a little more upbeat today compared to before the Italy-Spain game,” Mondellini, who is the director of CalcioFinanza, which focuses on the intersection of football and economics, told Xinhua. “Italy is a football crazy country and pulling for the national team is one of the few things that really unites people.”
Mondellini said the victory will create a general sense of optimism, which has an indirect but difficult-to-measure influence on everything from consumer buying habits to business confidence. If Italy manages to beat the winner of the England-Denmark match in Saturday’s final? “Then the impact will be even greater,” Mondellini said.
As it is, Italy’s birth into the European championship final is its first in the title game since 2012, when it lost 4-0 to the same Spain side it narrowly bettered on Tuesday.
Italy has now qualified for the European championship match four times in 16 tournaments starting in 1960, coming away with one championship trophy after beating Yugoslavia 2-0 in 1968.