Giorgio Chiellini came out on top in the psychological battle with Jordi Alba during the coin toss for the penalty shootout which saw Italy knock out Spain and reached the Euro 2020 final.
The semi-final clash was locked level at 1-1 after extra-time, meaning the clash was taken all the way to a tense round of spot-kicks – and Chiellini pulled out all the stops to gain a cheeky advantage.
With the toss apparently inconclusive, Chiellini was seen laughing around with Alba, who did not look as amused as his opposite number, and the Italy defender even threw in a mocking punch for good measure.
After the coin dropped to the turf, both captains appealed to take the first penalty at their preferred end by pointing in opposite directions and vocally pleading their cases to referee Felix Brych.
In the end, the toss was taken again and Chiellini came out victorious. After selecting the stand filled with the most Italy supporters, he then drew Alba into a surprise bearhug and let loose a wild grin.
Alba, in truth, was left bemused by the reaction from the 36-year-old stalwart – although Chiellini’s reaction revealed his confidence and ultimately left Italy with the narrowest of advantages.
Manuel Locatelli looked to get Italy off to a flying start with the first half, only for his effort to be parried out by Unai Simon, before Dani Olmo also failed to convert.
Next, Andrea Belotti, Gerard Moreno, Leonardo Bonucci, Thiago Alcantara and Federico Bernardeschi all found the net, before Gianluigi Donnarumma made the crucial intervention to deny Alvaro Morata.
That left Jorginho with the nervy task of slotting home the winner, which he duly did so, leaving Simon helpless.
The finish, which was caressed into the bottom corner, matched Chiellini’s levels of coolness and sparked wild scenes of jubilation from those wearing blue at Wembley.
But the bizarre moment between Chiellini and Alba, which may have been perceived as poor gamesmanship, was not received well by some people in Spain.
Josep Pedrerol, presenter of TV show El Chiringuito, insisted it was humiliating for Alba during his live post-match reaction – with the mind games from Chiellini clearly having had the desired effect.
Jorginho has opened up on the pressure he felt when sweeping home the decisive spot-kick, and admitted that after a deep breath he ‘got on’ with securing Italy’s spot in Sunday’s showpiece.
‘It was a struggle against a great team that made us run so hard, we knew we’d have to suffer, but we believed to the end and in my view deserved to win,’ he said.
‘When you take the kick, you feel this weight fall off your shoulders!
‘I tried to forget everything around me, focus on what I’d trained to do, took a deep breath and got on with it.’
Federico Chiesa struck first as Italy took the lead, but his strike was cancelled out by Alvaro Morata, who was slotted through on goal and calmly sent Donnarumma the wrong way with a neat finish.
After the full-time whistle, Roberto Mancini was not too proud to admit his team were made to ‘suffer’ – with Italy having been restricted to just 35 per cent possession and spells of dogged defending.
‘Almost no-one believed we could do it, yet we’re into the final,’ Mancini said.
‘From day one we have believed we could produce something incredible – but there is still one game to go.
‘We are delighted to provide a wonderful night of entertainment for the Italian people, and we hope to produce one more.
‘We knew this would be very tough. In terms of ball possession, Spain are the best around. They caused us problems and we had to dig in when we needed to.
‘I really want to take my hat off to Spain, they are a wonderful team. It was a very open game, but we kept going.
‘When you are involved in an intense championship like this, you will always have one match when you have to suffer. And we knew it would be this game.
‘But, occasionally, you can win matches in a different way.’