ITALY are waiting for England in Sunday’s European Championship finals after a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory against Spain.
Chelsea star Jorginho rolled home the winning spot-kick after Alvaro Morata had been denied by keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Dani Olmo also missed for Spain, blasting high over the bar, as Italy celebrated wildly with their fans at Wembley.
The good news for Gareth Southgate’s men should they win their own semi-final against Denmark tonight is that whoever they play will return to Wembley on Sunday physically and emotionally drained.
Favourites Italy thought they had secured a famous victory when Chiesa fired them into a 60th minute lead.
But they were pegged back by an 80th minute equaliser from sub Morata to force this gripping encounter into extra-time.
But even another 30 minutes could not separate these famous rivals before they were forced through the emotional wringer of penalties.
No team has won more European Championships than the Spanish, who arrived at Wembley with their eyes on a fourth title.
But their route to the semi-finals had been anything but plain sailing, winning just one of their five games in 90 minutes and requiring penalties to see off Switzerland in the last round.
Italy’s progress had been far more convincing, with 30 minutes of extra-time against Austria blotting their perfect record.
Their last defeat came way back in September 2018 and since then they had embarked on a national record run of 32 matches unbeaten.
No wonder the Italian fans were in such buoyant mood ahead of this highly anticipated meeting of international superpowers.
Even the loss of the influential Leonardo Spinazzola, who had ruptured an Achilles during the quarter-final win over Belgium, could not dampen their spirits.
But the Spanish contingent were left stunned by the news that star striker Morata had been dropped to allow the unheralded Mikel Oyarzabal to make his first start of the tournament.
Chelsea cast-off Morata certainly hadn’t been pulling up any trees over the past few weeks, yet his omission still came as quite a shock.
It was a big call by Luis Enrique, who maybe figured that Italian centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci were too familiar with their Juventus team-mate Morata and wanted the unknown Oyarzabal to shake them out of their comfort zone.
And it almost paid off for Spain when Oyarzabal was given a clear sight of goal by Pedri’s pass but was able to control the ball before Chiellini cleared.
Ferran Torres fired wide with the first shot of the match and Dani Olmo drew the first save from Gianluigi Donnarumma following a poor kick by the Italian keeper.
Yet for all of Spain’s early possession, their high defensive line left them wide open to the counter attack.
And that was the last thing they could afford when Unai Simon was such a bundle of nerves so far from his back four.
The Spanish keeper is still haunted by the memory of his second round howler when he allowed a simple Pedri back pass to roll into his goal against Croatia.
And though he saved his country’s bacon in their subsequent shoot-out victory over the Swiss, he still looked anything but convincing.
He should have been punished for a mad dash from his area when he was beaten to the ball in a 21st minute foot race by Lorenzo Insigne.
But neither Ciro Immobile nor Nicolo Barella were able to get a shot off before they were crowded out by white-shirted defenders with Simon scrambling back to his goal.
No wonder David De Gea cut such a forlorn figure on the subs’ bench as he pondered just how far his Spanish star has fallen.
Another poor Simon clearance invited further pressure on the Spanish goal before Immobile was shepherded away from the danger zone by Aymeric Laporte.
But at least the shackles were beginning to come off as Sergi Busquets fired just over the bar before Chiesa’s angled shot drew a sprawling save from Simon.
As expected, there was precious little between two teams who knew just how much was at stake.
But just when it was beginning to look like they were digging in for the long haul, Chiesa finally forced a 60th minute breakthrough to lift the lid off Wembley.
Marco Verratti and Insigne led the counter and though Laporte slid in to halt Immobile’s charge, the Manchester City defender was powerless to prevent Chiesa from curling a magnificent follow-up shot into the far corner.
It was like a dagger to the heart of Spanish hopes yet Enrique refused to concede defeat and reacted decisively by sending on Morata for Torres.
He had only been on the field for five minutes when he teed up Olmo for a first time shot which flashed just wide of Donnarumma’s goal.
And with Italy desperately clinging on to their slender lead, it was Morata who took the tie into extra-time when he exchanged passes with Olmo before calmly stroking home in the 80th minute.