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Italian-born Thiago seals Spanish victory

A hat-trick by inspirational captain Thiago Alcantara saw Spain easily retain their European Under-21 title in Jerusalem on Tuesday with a 4-2 win over Italy.

Italian-born Thiago seals Spanish victory
Thiago Alcantara, who was born in Italy, scored a hat-trick for Spain. Photo: henrikalexandersen/Flickr

Barcelona star Thiago, who was born in Italy where his Brazilian father Mazinho was playing for Lecce, doubled his total haul for the side with all

his goals coming in the first-half.

Isco added a fourth in the second-half while Italy's goals came from Ciro Immobile and Liverpool's Fabio Borini as they at least improved on the senior
side's 4-0 defeat by Spain in last year's senior Euro final.

Spanish coach Julen Lopetegui would not be drawn on whether the present side were better than the one who won the title in 2011.

"They were different teams, different championships. We were happy two years ago and we are happy now. Not only for the win but for the personality that the team showed."

The 46-year-old added that there were a combination of factors that had made this present side click.

"In the end there are many things: I think it's personality, quality and the behaviour of the group — both those who play and those who don't. They have been an example. It has made us compete very well."

His Italy counterpart Devis Mangia remained proud of his team despite their heavy defeat.

"These guys were great, and they only lack experience. It's not their fault, it's something that will be sorted out with time," said the 39-year-old. "These kids fought till the end looking for a goal."

Spain, who have the upper hand in Under-21 finals with Italy – leading 2-1 after this victory that handed them a fourth title – took less than seven minutes to open the scoring with a nicely worked goal.

Isco, a target for Manchester City and Real Madrid, played a neat exchange of passes with Real Madrid youngster Alvaro Morata.

Morata, scorer of three goals already in the tournament, got to the byline on the left side of the box and put in the perfect cross as Thiago rose unmarked to head home. However, the Italians drew level three minutes later as a Matteo Bianchetti long ball from inside his own half found Immobile, who controlled the ball beautifully before lifting it over David de Gea.

Morata's extra pace exposed the Italian defence in the 16th minute but his low shot was blocked by the Italian goalkeeper Francesco Bardi.

De Gea too had to be at his most alert when Alessandro Florenzi was found by Borini, but the Manchester United guardian did brilliantly to bat away the Italian's shot.

Both sides traded possession after that until some more woeful Italian defending allowed Thiago to score his second. Italian captain Luca Caldirola was once again the principal offender as he allowed the ball into the box go over him and there was Thiago, who brought the ball down before unleashing his shot which went in between the
goalkeeper's legs.

Things got worse for the Italians in the 38th minute as Cristian Tello was brought down by Giulio Donati and Thiago stepped up to slot home the penalty
for his first hat-trick for the Under-21 side.

Bardi kept the scoreline respectable for most of the second-half with saves from Thiago and Isco but the rampant Spaniards grabbed a fourth in the 66th
minute.

Another rash tackle in the penalty area by Vasco Regini on Martin Montoya saw a penalty awarded and this time Thiago stepped aside to allow Isco to take
it, and he put it away with aplomb.

The Italians, though, kept plugging away and Borini scored a cracking goal with 10 minutes remaining, the Liverpool player firing home from just outside
the box.

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FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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