Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini took centre stage in the most controversial moments of the Euro 2020 Final last summer, but England can’t get their revenge on them tonight, writes Lorenzo Bettoni.
Italy and the Three Lions meet at Wolverhampton tonight in the third match of the Conference League. Italy are still unbeaten with four points in two games, while England have collected just one point so far. It’s the first meeting between the two countries since the Euro 2020 Final a year ago.
In the meantime, Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup for a second successive time, while Chiellini, who captained Italy to European glory last summer, has retired from international football. He played his final competitive game with the Azzurri last week at Wembley Stadium, losing 3-0 in the Finalissima against Argentina.
The legendary Azzurri defender hit the headlines after Italy’s Euro 2020 triumph with a famous foul on Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka. Chiellini dragged the Englishman to the ground, receiving a yellow card for a tactical foul in the middle of the park, but thousands of England fans signed a petition in the following days, hoping to replay the game as they considered Chiellini’s foul worthy of a red card.
Chiello was praised by José Mourinho the following day and even by John Terry a few months later.
“Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are the best players of his generation, they are two legends already,” the Chelsea legend told La Gazzetta dello Sport in November.
“To do what Chiellini did on Saka….it not easy. If you just think about it, it’s clear that you are a legend.”
The experienced defender didn’t make the Team Of The Tournament, contrary to his teammate Bonucci who also had a key role in Italy’s win last summer. Bonucci scored the equaliser from a corner kick in the second half and, after the match, celebrated wildly with Chiellini mocking their opponents.
He shouted ‘It’s coming ROME’ to a TV camera after the match and hinted that Italy’s opponents didn’t have enough experience to win those kinds of games. He continued to troll the English less than a month later with an Instagram post while on holiday with Chiellini.
This is why they are not exactly loved by many English fans who didn’t hold back when the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup in March.
Thousands mentioned Bonucci on social media when Roberto Mancini’s boys lost to North Macedonia, recalling his mockeries and telling him that he’d watch the World Cup from Rome.
Both Italy defenders won’t be at the Molineux Stadium tonight. Chiellini retired from international football after 117 games with the national team, while Bonucci was allowed to leave the training camp earlier this week to begin his holiday early after a demanding campaign for club and country.
It remains to be seen if the 35-year-old will have another chance to meet the Three Lions before the end of his career. Undoubtedly, the veteran defender would have loved giving England a new opportunity in Qatar.