Euro 2020: Chiellini's unhinged, menacing act proves vital for Italy

Giorgio Chiellini was masochism dressed in Azzurri blue during his pre-penalty hysterics… the Italian veteran’s menacing, unhinged exchange with Jordi Alba showed that he is cut from a different cloth

  • Giorgio Chiellini’s unhinged, menacing act proved decisive against Spain 
  • The Italy captain engaged in pre-penalty hysterics alongside Jordi Alba 
  • The 36-year-old’s antics paid off as the Azzurri booked their place in the final
  • Chiellini is trying to guide Roberto Mancini’s side to their first trophy in 15 years  
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here

We realised long before now that Giorgio Chiellini was cut from a slightly different cloth. Team-mate Leonardo Bonucci is perhaps the only other player in world football who seems to treat defending like a religious experience.

Every block, every tackle, every bruising duel is merely another sacrifice of flesh.

It remains wonderfully novel to watch. Less so Chiellini’s approach to penalties in Tuesday’s semi-final against Spain. In fact, there was something rather menacing, almost unhinged, about the defender in the minutes before Italy booked their spot in the final.

For most people, shootouts have become an exercise in torture. For countries like ours, they were once a high-speed commute to grief and self- loathing. Perhaps that’s why Chiellini caused such a jolt at Wembley. There is no need to sugar coat it: this was masochism dressed in Azzurri blue.

Giorgio Chiellini’s unhinged, menacing act before penalties proved decisive on Tuesday

The Italian captain and Spain’s Jordi Alba tried to win marginal gains ahead of the shootout

As both managers finalised their line-ups, the defender joined Spain’s stand-in skipper Jordi Alba for the coin toss. On arrival, he grabbed his opposite number under his right arm and tugged him close.

After the coin hit the floor, Chiellini pointed towards the end where the Italian fans were gathered, Alba pointed the other way. That set Chiellini off. He began to laugh and impishly hit Alba in the chest. 

It was pantomime stuff as both players pleaded their case to Felix Brych. When the referee sided with Chiellini, the Italian fell into hysterics once more. He pushed Alba, he pointed at the Spaniard. He even gave him a playful punch to the face.

By now, no doubt, fans back in Barcelona had seen enough. What’s Spanish for ‘lamp him, Jordi’?

However, the 36-year-old’s hysterics saw penalties taken in front of Italy’s supporters

The Azzurri held their nerve to advance to Sunday’s showpiece final for this summer’s Euros

To his credit, though, Alba embraced it – even if he occasionally resembled a designated driver putting up with a particularly well-oiled friend.

Soon Chiellini won the right to go first, too. He turned to his opposite number, another grin stretched across his face. The 36-year-old held out his right hand, shook Alba’s and pulled the left back into a bear hug. Once, twice the Spain defender was lifted in Chiellini’s arms until Alba finally freed himself to face the real torment: penalties.

P.S. Bonucci was embroiled in his own awkward embrace after the final whistle thanks to a rather endearing case of mistaken identity.

The Italy defender headed towards the stands to celebrate with a group of fans. As he tried to return to his team-mates, he was accosted by a steward, who tried to keep him off the pitch. Bonucci, briefly baffled, quickly saw the funny side and gave the poor steward a big hug.

Never has the simple life of a more analogue age seemed more inviting than over the past couple of weeks.

The musical chairs caused by changing coronavirus restrictions has made the chase for Euros tickets almost unbearable. 

WhatsApp and social media have been awash with whispers and rumours about possible dumps on the UEFA portal. All so random. All so stressful.

And the worst part of all? It’s only going to get worse in the coming days.

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