At long last, the Euro 2020 final is upon us with Italy and England going head-to-head for the right to lift the coveted trophy.
For Italy, this is their third final since they won the tournament for the only time back in 1968 and signals a wonderful return to prominence after missing out on the 2018 World Cup. As for England, this marks the men’s team’s first major final since 1966 and first-ever appearance at this stage of the European Championships.
Italy vs England odds with William Hill
- Italy to win in 90 minutes: 19/10
- Draw in 90 minutes: 2/1
- England to win in 90 minutes: 17/10
So, what can we expect from both sides and how might the game play out? Here are some of the biggest storylines ahead of Sunday’s final, as well as line-up and scoreline predictions.
Possible Italy XI
Roberto Mancini has used a 4-3-3 formation to devastating effect throughout this tournament, blowing teams away with ferocious transitions early on before digging in and becoming hard to beat as his side advanced through the knockout rounds. There is little chance of him deviating from that now.
Gianluigi Donnarumma will obviously retain his place in goal, playing behind the immensely experienced and formidable centre-back pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. Giovanni Di Lorenzo should keep his right-back spot while Emerson continues to deputise at left-back for Leonardo Spinazzola, whose tournament was cut short with an Achilles injury.
Despite missing a penalty in the shootout against Spain, Manuel Locatelli has enjoyed a fine tournament and has a good case to start, though the experience and tenacity of Marco Verratti is likely to win Mancini’s favour for the final. The PSG man will make up a midfield triumvirate that combines style and substance alongside Jorginho and Nicolo Barella.
Federico Chiesa scored a terrific goal in the semi-final and should continue on the right, with Lorenzo Insigne on the left and the pair of them flanking Ciro Immobile through the middle. The Lazio striker isn’t exactly prolific at international level but leads the line well for Mancini and will play an important role in occupying England’s centre-backs on Sunday.
Possible England XI
Unlike Mancini, Gareth Southgate has swapped and changed both his starting XI and tactical set-up throughout Euro 2020 in order to nullify the opposition, with 4-2-3-1, 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 all used at various points. The temptation to pack the defence against this illustrious Italian side would be understandable, but Southgate is more than likely to stick with the line-up that won the semi-final against Denmark, with the Three Lions doing brilliantly to get a grip of the game from the second half onwards.
Despite a nervous first half, Jordan Pickford grew into Wednesday’s match and will keep his place between the sticks, with John Stones and Harry Maguire continuing their excellent partnership in front. Kyle Walker’s pace will once again be important up against Insigne, while Luke Shaw’s delivery will have to be even more accurate on Sunday to avoid Chiellini and Bonucci gobbling up crosses.
Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips will have a big job on their hands against the Italian midfield and it’ll be important they provide as much protection as possible to allow Mason Mount freedom to influence the game further forward. On the wings, Raheem Sterling has arguably been England’s player of the tournament and drove his side forward throughout the 120 minutes on Wednesday. Bukayo Saka contributed enough against the Danes to retain his place on the right, though both he and Jadon Sancho could take Emerson to task.
Harry Kane will obviously lead the line as captain, creating openings for his teammates by tempting Bonucci and Chiellini out of position, the latter of which has told Rai Sport: “Kane is a player I have always liked a great deal.
“I remember one of his first internationals in Turin and he immediately made a good impression on me. We’ve been fortunate enough to play against Tottenham, so I know him well.
“England aren’t just Kane, though,” Chiellini added. “Their bench alone could win the Euros, as yesterday they had Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Phil Foden.”
Kane, of course, goes into Sunday’s game in search of history, looking to become just the third Englishman to score in a major final.
How the Italian media reacted to England win
Understandably, the Italian media were keeping an extremely close eye on Wednesday night’s semi-final as they awaited their opponent this weekend.
Corriere dello Sport splash with “English Soup” (Zuppa Inglese being an Italian dessert similar to trifle, for those wondering), adding, “Southgate needs the referee’s help to reach the final against Italy.”
— Corriere dello Sport (@CorSport) July 8, 2021
“Let’s get the crown” declare La Gazzetta dello Sport, before recounting how Denmark “scared” an England side only able to advance to the final thanks to a “very generous” penalty. They describe their current national side as a double-threat that “defends by tradition, attacks by vocation.”
📣 PRENDIAMOCI LA CORONA
— La Gazzetta dello Sport (@Gazzetta_it) July 8, 2021
Elsewhere, Sky Italia‘s Valentina Fass said, “After last night [vs Denmark], everyone is a bit scared that the home effect could be quite strong for the England team,” while Italian reporter Tancredi Palmeri tweeted in reference to the penalty incident, “It’s diving home”
It’s diving home
— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) July 7, 2021
Southgate explains Grealish double-sub
The sight of Jack Grealish stripping off to enter Wednesday’s game triggered an audible cheer around Wembley Stadium, as well as among the masses watching in pubs and clubs up and down the country. True to form, the Aston Villa captain made an immediate impact, committing Danish defenders and putting England on the front foot with his fearless dribbling and close control.
England were on top from the moment Grealish came on, which is why it was such a shock that, in the 105th minute, having been on the pitch for just 36 minutes, Southgate decided to replace him with Kieran Trippier.
But following the match, Southgate explained the decision was made to add more defensive solidity to help his side protect their lead, and that Grealish had taken it graciously, appreciative that he’s part of a squad effort.
— Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish) July 7, 2021
“Jack had a brilliant influence on the game,” he said. “Denmark threw four forwards forward and we needed five [defenders] back.
“Raheem [Sterling] was such a threat that it was either going to be Phil [Foden] or Jack to get the solidity without the ball. We still needed to get that pressure up the pitch. We sank a little bit too deep for five minutes or so.
“We just needed to keep the ball and it took us five minutes to work that out. When we started to keep it, we were running the clock down with a lot less anxiety.”
As Southgate explained his decision to Grealish, the Villa star is said to have responded: “Gaffer, it doesn’t matter. I’m not bothered. We’ve got to the final.”
Southgate’s bold move was also backed by former England left-back Stuart Pearce, who told talkSPORT: “Jack’s probably the least defensive-minded of players there. You can’t take Kalvin Phillips off.”
Indeed, England did close out the game in style, playing keep-ball for a number of minutes toward the end in a manner they’ve been on the wrong end of in tournaments so many times over the years. If nothing else, the move showed Southgate has the courage of his convictions and won’t wilt in the face of pressure to play certain players over others.
England's keep-ball at the end last night was absolutely sensational. One of the my favourite moments watching the national team and game management I've never seen from #ENG
— Chris Smith ⚽✍️ (@CJSmith91) July 8, 2021
Squawka writers & William Hill reps give their scoreline predictions
Chris Smith (@CJSmith91): This is going to be England’s biggest test by far but Southgate has already proved he can inspire his side to overcome the biggest of obstacles. It’ll be tight. It’ll be tense. But England will get it done thanks to the talents of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. Italy 0-1 England.
Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt): England will be wary of the brilliance of Federico Chiesa but with the pressing power of Mason Mount and Kalvin Phillips, they’ll be able to mimic Spain (to a degree) and swarm Jorginho and Marco Verratti to prevent the Azzurri from advancing the ball. With Italy neutered, it will then fall to Raheem Sterling to create a goal and with the way the #BoyFromBrent is playing right now, would you bet against him? Italy 0-1 England.
Mohamed Moallim (@mhmdmllm): As the modern cliché goes, this game will be decided in midfield. At his disposal, Roberto Mancini has four incredible players though only has room for three in Italy’s well-oiled 4-3-3 system. They were off the pace against Spain, but I expect Nicolò Barella and company to give their English counterparts the runaround, subsequently creating openings for the Azzurri’s irresistible forward line who are certain to give Harry Maguire and John Stones their first uncomfortable test at this summer’s championship. Italy 2-1 England.
Ben Green: Italy are currently 33 games unbeaten under Roberto Mancini. Let that sink in for a minute. They have already taken down Belgium and Spain to reach this stage and that midfield three of Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella is terrifyingly exceptional. England have been brilliant, make no mistake about that, but they have not yet faced an opponent as ruthlessly well-drilled, fluid and cut-throat as Italy. When I pit Mancini up against Southgate, I just can’t help but think Italy have the tactical edge here. It will be a close, cagey contest but I reckon Italy may just edge this. Italy 2-1 England.
Tom Dutton (@TomDutty): Italy’s impressive run to the final has been built on a solid defence, with Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne cashing in at the other end. However, England can take heart from both Belgium and Spain exposing chinks in the Italian armour. Harry Kane could well get some joy operating deeper, with Spain’s Dani Olmo excelling as a false nine against the Italians in a thrilling semi-final on Tuesday. It will take a mammoth performance from the hosts to end Italy’s 33-game unbeaten streak, particularly with Gianluigi Donnarumma in inspired form, but I’m tipping the Wembley crowd to roar England to glory. Italy 1-2 England.
Ryan Hallam (@RyanHallam96): The best Italian dishes are created with three components in mind: simplicity, taste, and appearance. Much like their cuisine, gli Azzurri have created a footballing dynasty centred around three basic principles: solid defensive structure, intense work rate perfectly accompanied by a pinch of Italian flair. In 600 minutes of football at Euro 2020 they are yet to trail, yet, I’m inclined to think that this could be at their undoing. The Three Lions have scored more headed goals than any other nation (5) and Gareth Southgate’s Love Train is just about getting up to full speed. One last stop at Wembley and finally football is coming home. Italy 0-2 England.