IF you were to listen to the pundits over the past week, the European Championship trophy was alternatively destined to be coming home or going to Rome. After a rip-roaring encounter at Wembley, Italy have kept up their half of the bargain after edging out Spain on penalties.

It was a cruel end to the tournament for the Spaniards, who defied all expectations to not only reach this stage, but largely outplay the Italians for the majority of the evening.

As it was though, Alvaro Morata’s topsy-turvy Euros saw him go from villain to hero to villain all over again, with the striker cancelling out Federico Chiesa’s opener for Italy, only to go on and miss the decisive penalty in the shootout.

Twenty five years after his father Enrico scored for Italy in the European Championships, Chiesa struck a beauty to give Italy a lead against the run of play, but the Spaniards would not go down easily.

Morata, who had surprisingly been dropped to the bench at the start, hauled Spain level with the sort of ruthless finishing that had been all that was missing from their play all evening to that point.

Luis Enrique had preferred Dani Olmo at the centre of his attack, giving the RB Leipzig attacker the unenviable task of taking on the grand old pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini at the heart of the Italian defence.

If the outcome as to be settled by the anthems, it would have been adjudged a no contest, with the wordless Spanish ditty blown away by the passion of the Italians blasting out every syllable of "Il Canto degli Italiani" with the customary gusto.

The start of the game rather reflected that exchange, with the Spanish side trying to establish measured possession, and the Italians roaring forward every time they nabbed the ball.

Left-back Emerson, in for the impressive Leonardo Spinazzola after his devastating ACL injury against Belgium, could have had Nicolo Barella in almost immediately, but delayed his pass just a fraction and the rampaging midfielder was caught offside.

Once things settled, Sergio Busquets started to influence the game, and his ball to the brilliant Pedri saw the Barcelona youngster reverse a beautiful pass through to Mikel Oryarzabal, but he took his eye off the ball just as he looked to apply the finish and the chance was gone.

Suddenly, Italy looked unsure of themselves, and Barella left a pass short in midfield to allow Ferran Torres the chance to have a pop, but he screwed it wide.

The English fans present then got into the spirit for their own semi-final against Denmark, giving Wembley a chorus of ‘It’s coming home’, which was drowned out by the whistles and boos of the Spaniards and Italians.

Emerson then got in behind Azpilicueta, leading to Unai Simon rushing from his goal in foolhardy fashion. The full-back poked the ball inside onto Ciro Immobile, but he just couldn’t get the shot away with defenders throwing their bodies in front of the goal and in front of him.

The play raced to the other end, and the impressive Olmo had a gilt-edged opportunity after a careless clearance from Gianluigi Donnarumma, with the break of the ball off Bonucci giving him a clear sight of goal. The keeper made up for his error by beating his final effort away low to his right.

Spain by now were in control of the game, but for all their neat possession and ability to get the ball into dangerous areas, they were lacking a cutting edge.

As for Italy, they got their first effort away on the stroke of half-time, and it was Emerson again proving to be their biggest attacking threat, crashing an effort off the bar from a narrow angle.

Whatever Roberto Mancini had tweaked to counteract Spain’s domination at the interval didn’t seem to have the desired effect right away, and a swift Spanish break saw the wrong man in the right place as Busquets shot just over from the edge of the area.

Chiesa finally got a shot on target for the Italians by way of a counter blow though, and the signs were that both sides were now settling in for a slugfest. And so it was that after the rope-a-dope from the Italians, came the sucker punch.

Donnarumma took a cross into his gloves and immediately released Marco Verrati, who in turn played a through ball that had Immobile scampering in behind. Juan Laporte got back to get a tackle in, but the ball broke for Chiesa, who took a touch and curled the ball home across Simon and into the corner of the net. It was a sumptuous finish, and now the Spaniards had the problem of facing an Italian side with something to defend.

It is a situation that would have had Bonucci and Chiellini licking their lips, but they were almost undone immediately as a mistake allowed Koke to float a ball onto the head of Oryarzabal six yards out unchallenged, but the Real Sociedad man somehow blew his second big chance of the night.

Play swung back up the other end, and Chiesa turned supplier for substitute Domenico Berardi, who hit Simon as the angle narrowed.

Enrique threw on Gerard Moreno for the misfiring Oryarzabal as he finally went with a recognised striker, and Morato wasn’t far behind him. The roll of the dice paid off handsomely.

Morata took the ball in from Laporte, turned and played a one-two with Olmo, and then showed what his side had been missing all evening as he slid the ball clinically past Donnarumma.

Extra-time beckoned, and it was the least that Spain deserved.

Olmo almost caught Donnarumma out at the near post from a free-kick, then the Italian keeper just beat Morata to a Moreno cross, but it was clear who was the more eager party to avoid penalties.

That said, Berardi did have the ball in the net for Italy, but the wild celebrations were cut short by one of those frustratingly belated offside flags we have had to become accustomed to.

All 12 subs were now on the pitch, but the fresh legs couldn’t provide fresh impetus, and this titanic tussle was going all the way.

The first two kicks were missed to keep nerves on edge, but Italy stood 3-2 ahead as Morata stepped up. This time, he couldn’t find the finish, and his weak effort was palmed away by Donnarumma. Jorginho hopped, skipped and jumped to put Simon down, stroked the ball home, then bounded away in celebration as the Italian hordes behind the goal went crazy.