Italy midfielder Marco Verratti feels the spot-kick Raheem Sterling won in England’s Euro 2020 semi-final victory over Denmark was “a bit of a generous penalty”.
The Three Lions were awarded the penalty in extra-time of Wednesday’s clash at Wembley after Joakim Maehle was adjudged to have fouled Sterling.
Harry Kane then saw his effort from 12 yards parried by Kasper Schmeichel before slotting in the rebound for what proved to be the winner as Gareth Southgate’s men triumphed 2-1 to set up Sunday’s final against the Italians at the same venue.
Asked about the penalty incident at a press conference on Thursday, Verratti said: “Perhaps it was a bit of a generous penalty, but it is part of the picture in football. I think it was a bit of a generous penalty.”
Verratti also described Sterling as a “fantastic player” and said he thought England deserved to be in the final, which he thinks will be “an epic”.
The 28-year-old Paris St Germain player said: “I think England did a great job. They got to the final for the first time and this says a lot.
“They conceded only one goal, so it is a very solid team, great players, very balanced, and I think they did deserve to get to the final. Now it’s all down to the final, which I think will be an epic final, and history-making either way.
“England is a very physical team, and they have players who are very skilled as well. We will face a very, very tough team, they will be playing at home, they know the stadium well. But it is a dream for us to win this European Championship.
“Surely the supporters will factor in somehow, but we’re all professional players, we know what it is to play in fan-packed stadiums, and somehow this will drive us as well. We will be happy about it too – it’s great to play in a packed stadium.
“I think Italy-England is always a huge match. There will be only one winner and I hope it will be us. We will give it our very best shot.”
Italy are managed by former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, who took charge of the Azzurri in 2018 and has gone on to oversee a 33-game unbeaten run.
Verratti said: “I think Mancini did a huge job.
“He did very well wherever he coached. He has been criticised, sure, but again, that’s part of the picture. If you don’t win, you will end up getting criticised, it goes for everyone, it is absolutely normal in football. Results are paramount and when you don’t win, it’s easier to criticise the manager than the whole team.
“He’s done a great job with us, everyone can see it. He’s a very special manager for us, he boosted our confidence when we lost it because of the negative results of the past. I think he was the perfect man for the job.
“He restarted our enthusiasm, with his style we actually had fun. We haven’t lost in 33 matches – these are important statistics and it tells you he is doing a great job. Sometimes one might say managers are not so important, but for us he truly is an added value.”