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Giorgio Chiellini has lifted the lid on his bizarre exchange with Jordi Alba moments before Italy outwitted Spain in a penalty shootout to reach the Euro 2020 final.
The Azzurri won 4-2 in the shootout to progress to the Wembley showpiece, where they will face England, after Federico Chiesa's goal was cancelled out by Alvaro Morata in regular time.
Italy captain Chiellini raised eyebrows by laughing and embracing stand-in Spain skipper Alba as the toss took place to determine who would shoot first.
Many fans speculated the Juventus veteran was trying to unsettle the opposition with his overly-friendly approach – but there is an innocent explanation for his behaviour.
Chiellini was surprisingly blase and joked with Alba ahead of the penalty shootout
(Image: Pool via REUTERS)
"Much more was said than what actually happened," Chiellini told the Italian Football Federation of the incident.
"We had to decide which end to shoot at, and the referee threw a counter and said 'red one end, blue the other'. When red came up, Jordi thought it was his end, but I joked that it wasn't"
Chiellini also opened up on the mental turmoil he felt during the shootout, as Italy got off to a bad start as Manuel Locatelli was denied by Unai Simon.
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He added: "After the first one, I was desperate. We shared emotions that will remain forever and in the end there was a hug with a tear."
Fortunately for Italy, Andrea Belotti, Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Bernardeschi and Jorginho converted from 12 yards to fire them to the final after Morata missed a vital penalty for the Spanish.
Advancing to the last match of a major tournament was a pipe dream for the Azzurri only four years ago, when they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Who will come out on top and England and Italy clash at Wembley? Comment below.
Chiellini admits he thought manager Roberto Mancini was "crazy" when he first told the squad they could win Euro 2020.
"Playing in the final is a dream come true," said the 36-year-old. "At the beginning we also believed that Mancini was crazy when he told us that we should think about winning the European Championship."
Meanwhile, Chiellini's teammate Marco Verratti outlined Italy's aim to make their fans proud but insisted they must not let the occasion get to them.
"Seeing the people in the piazzas and their love for the tricolour, it gives you more strength and drive, so that you don’t have regrets afterwards," said the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder.
"A final is a unique event, which also brings a lot of pressure with it. There's no need to put a load of pressure on the players and maybe that's the secret – forget everything else and try to play as 'carefree' as possible".
Buy the Euro 2020 final match programme here.