Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini held aloft the gleaming trophy before a crowd of joyful fans Monday as he and his triumphant team returned home from their victory against England in Euro 2020.
There were euphoric scenes overnight following Sunday’s victory at Wembley, as fans draped in the tricolor flag thronged streets across Italy and the sound of fireworks and beeping cars and scooters filled the air.
And there was elation among a group who got up early — or never went to bed — to greet the Azzurri as they arrived back in Rome on Monday morning, fronted by Chiellini, the 36-year-old veteran at the heart of Italy’s defense, wearing a crown.
A grinning Leonardo Spinazzola, who played an outstanding role in the team’s progress before injuring his Achilles tendon in the quarter-final against Belgium, had earlier hopped down the steps of the plane at Rome’s Fiumicino and hobbled on crutches across the tarmac to cheers from media and airport staff snapping photographs.
The boys in blue chanted “We’re the champions of Europe!” as they piled out of the coach that whisked them from the airport to the hotel in Rome where they were headed for a rest — or to continue the celebrations.
They were invited to meet with Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Monday evening and also with President Sergio Mattarella, who himself was in London to watch the match.
Roberto Mancini’s men recovered from the shock of a rapid early England goal to equalize and then claim a 3-2 victory on penalties.
“It’s too beautiful!”, proclaimed the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, saying: “Italy is the queen of Europe.
“It knew how to recover a match that seemed lost, as only the greatest teams know how.
“Finally Wembley falls silent, after having whistled, shouted, howled. Every single Italian during those two hours felt like a giant once more”.
A great emotion
Some Italian fans were bleary-eyed Monday after late night carousing, ordering double espressos to revive themselves.
“It was a real satisfaction, a great emotion,” said Mario Castellini, the manager of a bar in the capital’s historic center.
“I was sure we’d make it in the penalty shoot out, because we have a great goalkeeper” in Gianluigi Donnarumma, who claimed the player of the tournament award on Sunday, he added.
Greengrocer Matteo Falovo spoke for many when he said it had been “a pleasure to be able to think about something else” than the pandemic, with Italy being the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus.
Despite entreaties from the government to respect social distancing rules, the streets of central Rome were packed with fans late Sunday and early Monday.
But even the street cleaners sweeping up broken beer bottles and firework casings after the celebrations were cheerful.
Rome butcher Mauro Antonucci summed it up in five simple words, telling AFP that “it was really something wonderful”.
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