The Three Lions advanced to their first major tournament final in 55 years after beating Denmark in extra time.

After an enthralling summer of international football, Euro 2020 has reached its climax. Italy play England in the final on Sunday. It promises to be an interesting tactical battle between two heavyweights, with both teams boasting of a strong defence.

The semi-finals leading to the summit clash were not short of excitement either. Italy overcame Spain in a penalty shootout after a very tense battle. England, too, needed 120 minutes to overcome Denmark, albeit in a controversial fashion.  

Italy will be looking to fend off bad memories of the Euro 2012 final, when they were thrashed 4-0 by Spain. Italy’s last European Championship title came in 1968. At Wembley, the Azzurri would be hoping to break their 53-year-long duck.

England’s duck, on the other hand, is a completely different one. They had not won a knockout game in normal time in the history of the tournament before beating Germany 2-0 at Wembley last week. It has been a record-breaking campaign for England. The Three Lions kept an impressive five clean-sheets in the tournament. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford became the first English custodian to keep five consecutive clean-sheets in a major tournament.

Italy, too, have looked incredibly solid on both sides of the pitch. They have shown that they can take charge of a game and play flamboyantly. However, they have also shown that when put on the back foot, they can defend resolutely and pull off surprises.

Key Tactical Battles

England’s wingers Vs Italy’s centre-backs

Bonucci and Chiellini have been central to Italy’s 33-game unbeaten run (Courtesy: UEFA)

Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka have been a marauding presence for England at Euro 2020. The pair have arguably been their best players and even combined for England’s first goal versus Denmark.

In the final, England’s pacey wingers will be up against the likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. While Italy’s veteran centre-back duo have been tremendous throughout the tournament, they will certainly have their work cut out when they are up against the likes of Sterling and Saka.

Sterling and Saka troubled Denmark’s Jaanik Vestergaard throughout the match. Their electric pace posed a tough challenge for the big defender. This particular battle will play a key part in the result of the game.

The midfield battle

The battle in midfield will be an interesting one, as two different kinds of midfields come up against each other. Italy are a lot more technically adept and should have a lot more of the ball, unlike the game against Spain. England’s midfield, however, performs incredibly well without the ball. Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips are very good combative midfielders. While Phillips possesses great ability on the ball, his role in the England team demands a lot of off-the-ball work.

The match is likely to be setup in a manner that is favourable for both sides, arguably. One that would like to keep the ball and create openings against one that prefers to play on the break. Given the recent news and discussions, the battle between Jorginho and Declan Rice would be one to keep your eye on.

Team News

England made their first major tournament final in 55 years after beating Denmark (Courtesy: UEFA)

Italy’s loss of Leonardo Spinazzola seems to have had a telling impact on them and their style. While his replacement, Emerson, had a good game against Spain, Spinazzola’s tactical flexibility and combinations with Lorenzo Insigne are missed.

Despite a difficult outing for the midfield against Spain, Roberto Mancini is likely to persist with the midfield three of Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella. The front three should also remain the same, while Domenico Berardi remains on the bench.

On the other hand, Southgate has an important decision to make regarding the shape of the team. The 4-2-3-1 has worked well for England in the last two games and they seem to be improving. However, the success of the back three against Germany would be on his mind. A back three is very much on the table.

Tactics

Italy

Italy’s probable XI against England

Emerson is likely to continue at left-back. The Chelsea man was excellent on the ball against Spain in the semi-final and is set to be slotted alongside Bonucci, Chiellini and Di Lorenzo. Mancini is also likely to keep the same playing XI with Insigne and Chiesa playing behind Ciro Immobile on either flank.

Italy’s midfield trio of Jorginho, Verratti and Barella will have key roles to control England’s pacy wingers and not leave Bonucci and Chiellini exposed against them. With Jorginho and Verratti, Italy are certain to keep more possession of the ball but it what they make of it that will decide the encounter.

England

England’s probable XI against Italy

England, meanwhile, could go for a back three. But the back four has been successful for Southgate against both Ukraine and Denmark. Bukayo Saka looked a little lost in the semis but will be trusted again with a place in the starting XI.

Southgate is likely to stick to back four. England have kept a clean sheet in five of their six matches at Euro 2020 and in four of those games, the Three Lions played with a four-man defence. Jack Grealish is once again likely to sit on the bench with Mason Mount likely to start.

Probable Lineups

Italy (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Jorginho, Verratti, Barella; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne.

England (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Phillips; Saka, Mount, Sterling; Kane.

Players To Watch Out For

Federico Chiesa

Federico Chiesa has scored two goals at Euro 2020 (Courtesy: Uefa.com)

Chiesa played second-fiddle to Domenico Berardi for the first four matches. However, since coming on as a substitute against Austria and grabbing the winner, he has not looked back. Roberto Mancini has rewarded the Juventus winger with consecutive starts and he has continued to shine. He was influential against Belgium and scored a stunning goal against Spain.

The winger is expected to get the nod and will be a key player for the Azzurri. Italy are likely to have much more of the ball than they did against Spain. This will allow Chiesa to get more balls at his feet and make things happen, rather than chasing stray long balls. He will look to isolate the space in behind the marauding Luke Shaw and hope to get himself in one-on-one situations against Harry Maguire.

Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling won the penalty that took England to the Euro 2020 final (Courtesy: Uefa.com)

Sterling has not just been England’s best player, but arguably the best in the tournament. His role in the final has already been highlighted in the tactical battles. Sterling already has three goals in the tournament. But, the one that was a trademark was the goal against Germany.

The match against Italy is likely to be setup in a similar manner. Italy will have a lot more of the ball and will try to attack from the wide areas. This means that England will have to do damage in transitioning counter-attacks. Sterling is England’s best bet for the same.

The English winger was absolutely electric in the semi-final against Denmark. When Sterling exploited the space behind Joakim Maehle and isolated Jaanik Vestergaard in a 1v1, he almost always got the better of him. If Sterling is able to get in behind the wing-backs and isolate the aged Italian centre-backs in a foot race, he is going to be his most lethal self.

Head-to-Head

The Euro 2021 final is just the third meeting between the two sides in the history of this competition. Italy defeated England on penalties in 2012, when they made it to the final. The other win came back in the 1980 Euro group stage, where Italy prevailed 1-0.

Overall, the two sides have met 27 times. The final marks the 28th. Out of so many meetings, Italy have won eleven times, to England’s eight. Their last meeting was in March 2018, when the game ended as a 1-1 draw.

What To Expect

A very captivating Euro final awaits us and the result is fairly difficult to call. While both teams boast a solid defensive record, neither are likely to keep a clean-sheet in the showpiece. 90 minutes do not seem to be enough to separate two very able sides and the game is likely to head into extra-time.

Telecast

The Euro 2020 final between Italy and England will be played at Wembley Stadium, London. The match kicks off at 12:30 am IST on July 12.

Fans in India can watch the Italy Vs England final live on Sony Ten 2/2 HD, Sony Ten 3/3HD, Sony Six/HD and Sony Ten 4/4 HD channels. The match will also be available for live streaming on Sonyliv as well as on JIO TV.

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