England and Italy square off at Wembley Stadium this Sunday in the final of Euro 2020
Roberto Mancini has guided Gli Azzurri to the final off the back of the longest winning sequence in the European Championships – a feat which began when the Italians found themselves labouring at their lowest ever rankings.
England will contest a major final for the first time in 55 years, add the fact that it’ll be played at a packed Wembley, and you just know the atmosphere will be palpable.
Euro 2020 Final
Sunday 11 July
To Win (90 min)
To Lift The Cup
Italy have been near-perfect at Euro 2020 and now find themselves one win away from glory.
They took the lead against Spain in their semi-final after swift play from Gianluigi Donnarumma set them on the counter, Federico Chiesa then nestled his shot in the bottom corner. It was then Alvaro Morata who demanded the game go to extra time after equalizing with just ten to play.
It was to be decided on penalties and Jorginho once again stepped up and showed that ice (and ice alone) flows through his veins!
This was the first time we’ve seen the Italian defence asked so many questions. Spain was undoubtedly the team on top for about two thirds of the game and continued to pour pressure onto the Italian last line.
Roberto Mancini has (seemingly) effortlessly created a side that is complete. On the field that have maintained their trademark defensive rigidity, they have the ability to enlarge the pitch and the speed to hurt you in almost every area. Add players like Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne and you have a side capable of causing serious damage.
Warhorses Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will go down as one of the greatest defensive pairings in modern football and deservedly so! Irrespective of what happens on Sunday, know that you have been privileged to watch these two grace a football field.
If this was the French side, we would all (myself included) be singing N’Golo Kante’s praises for the work he does on defence and the ability to get his side into attacking positions with silky transitional play.
Signore Jorginho, kindly step forward. The midfielder has been incredible for his side, absolutely sublime. Often, he’ll go unnoticed and not attract as much media attention but for me, he’s a massive contender for player of the tournament.
Gareth Southgate’s side managed to get past Denmark on Wednesday evening in a really hard-fought encounter. You have to say that England were the better side on the night and probably deserved to go through to Sunday’s final… but that cannot be – under any circumstances – a penalty! Ok… I promise I’ll move on now.
I’m sure many, like myself, struggle at times to understand Southgate’s team selection but you’ve got to admit that it has worked so far. I believe that coaching England, or indeed in England, is probably the most difficult job in the world, because of the media, and in an age of social media – everyone knows better.
Nevertheless, this English side has a depth of quality which can compete with the very best in the world. The blend of experience and exciting youth could likely be the difference for England this year.
There were question marks over whether England had the draw to come back from conceding a goal – well even in unfamiliar territory after a truly immaculate free-kick they were able to soak up the pressure and deliver.
It would be a lie to say that England played the most beautiful football at this tournament, but you can’t deny that they did what was needed to be done. When they dominated games, you saw some of the brilliance they possess. When they found themselves in a dogfight, you saw grit and determination often encapsulated in crunching tackles aimed at disrupting football. And arguably most importantly, when they were put into a corner, that lion inside every sportsman or team reared and showed itself.
Verdict: Draw 2/1
I don’t think the game will be decided within 90min, but England will lift the cup which you can get on at 8/10.
There is something eerily similar between where England find themselves now, against the backdrop of everything happening in their country, and South Africa before the Rugby World Cup in 2019 – yes, yes excuse the irony of us beating them just for a minute.
There is simply something surreal about the joy and elation attached to the success of this English football side. Sport can produce happiness, even if it is fleeting and illusory but much like our own country in 2019, even with division, distrust and anger, the success of a national team can simply make you happy again.
So come Sunday evening, England play the tournament’s best-organised side and new favourites to win the whole thing. But again, this just perfectly sets up the story further. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you put your hard-earned money on England’s success because it’ll make for a good story; this team is every bit as good and can certainly win this on merit…but it will be remiss of us not to acknowledge that for their hardened fans, football just might be coming home.