Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci said Spain gave him the hardest challenge of his career after the Azzurri edged into the Euro 2020 final on penalties following a 1-1 draw.
Roberto Mancini’s side mustered seven shots to Spain’s 17 over the course of 120 compelling minutes, in which Federico Chiesa’s second half opener was cancelled out by an Alvaro Morata strike.
But a 4-2 shootout win sent the Italians through to Sunday’s final at Wembley, where they will face Denmark or England as they look to win the title for the first time since 1968.
“It was the toughest game I have ever played. I congratulate Spain for what they showed, but once again this Italy showed heart, determination and the ability to push through difficult moments,” Bonucci said.
“Now there is one more centimetre to go. It is incredible what we are doing. We will be back here in five days and we must have the same attitude to bring home this trophy that we have lacked for 50 years.”
Winger Chiesa, one of several impressive young Italian players featuring in a major tournament for the first time, was awarded the UEFA star of the match award after scoring a superb curling effort to put Italy ahead.
“I cannot describe my emotion by words, it was a tough match, Spain were great tonight but we come back here on 11 July for the final,” he said.
“Spain were great, they have star players but we fought until the end and we did it. When (Manuel) Locatelli missed the first penalty, everyone was calm saying we can do it and at the end our group helped us in the moment.”