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Ecstasy and agony of last night's England v Italy Euro 2020 final as witnessed at the Rose & Crown, Farndon




England fans drank in the ecstasy and the agony of watching their national team fall at the final hurdle of Euro 2020 glory.

Fans arrived early to take in the atmosphere of the pre-match build-up in a fully-booked yet covid-compliant Rose & Crown in Farndon last night and the Advertiser was there to capture every cheer and wince.

As the players took to the Wembley pitch fans watched in their England shirts and wrapped in their flags of St George on a £1,200 plus big screen provided for free by LHG Productions in the beer garden and two socially-distanced rooms.

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For Ian Willis, pre-match held an omen that could have gone either way.

As a young Royal Marine 39 years ago, Ian had turned on the TV the moment he arrived home from the Falklands War to see Italy lift the World Cup. Would the omen be his coming home or that Italy would win?

The National Anthem was sung with real gusto and Italy's observed without a single boo.

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There was expectation as well as rain in the air. Could England win their first major trophy in 55 years? Home or Rome?

There was immediate jubilation as, two minutes in, Luke Shaw capped an excellent tournament for him personally and a resurgent team under gentleman Gareth Southgate by hitting the back of the net to make it one-nil.

The crowd erupted and the drummer was on his feet beating out the English anthems.

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This, it appeared, was to be our day.

But there was still so long to go. Could England hold on, or even add to the tally? The omens appeared good.

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They bossed the first half and there were missed chances to add to the drama.

The rain came down and out came the umbrellas and plastic macs. Yet, spirits weren't dampened.

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Italy were better after the break but fans at the Rose & Crown bellowed out their cheers and songs eulogising Southgate, Kane, Maguire, Sterling, Shaw et al.

The beer flowed, ably served by the capable and charming Rose & Crown staff who were never at risk of being overrun as the Italian defence had been.

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There was a break in the rain and a hint at a breaking of English hearts as Italy levelled, cheers when their calls for the introduction of Jack Grealish were answered, incredulity when Chiesa escaped a red for his tackle on Grealish and further disbelief when Bonucci escaped with a yellow for hauling down Bakary Sako.

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The final whistle went and extra time loomed. The heavens opened again.

Extra time came and went, the beer continued to flow and the singing intensified.

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Now came the penalties. Each England taker was met with a chorus of signing of their name. Everyone was hoping, dreaming that their hopes, dreams and expectations would carry on the breeze to Wembley Way to a kick-taker whose aim would be true.

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Harry Kane and Harry Maguire scored for England but, while Pickford kept hopes alive with saves from Andrea Belotti and Jorginho, Domenico Berardi, Bonucci and Federico Bernardeschi managed to score for Italy.

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The highs were cheered, the lows groaned and then, that was it. Game over and the wait continues.

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There was sudden deathly silence. No one knew what to say or what to do. The crowd was England-crest-fallen. Yet, from the ashes of defeat, one man lifted that crest to his lips and kissed it and, the drum found its beat again.

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They found their voices once more and gave thanks for a tournament well played and to honour their heroes who by now looked so upset on the field of play.

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Now, we look forward to next year's World Cup when there will surely be an even greater chance of football coming home from an even greater stage.

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