After the midweek Semi-finals which saw Italy edge old rivals Spain on penalties, and England oust Denmark 2-1 after extra time, we take a closer look at how these teams got to this stage of the tournament and what to expect on Sunday night.
Road to the Final
Italy started out on fire in UEFA Euro 2020, racking up a perfect trio of wins over Turkey, Switzerland and Wales to top Group A with nine points. The Round of 16 saw them stretched for the first time in the tournament, as they needed an extra 30 minutes to overcome a stubborn Austria 2-1 at Wembley, thanks to goals from Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina.
In the Quarterfinals, the Azzurri truly underlined their class with a 2-1 victory over Belgium the number one ranked team in the world in Munich, thanks to superb strikes from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne.
The Semi-finals brought Italy’s toughest test yet, as they went all the way to penalties to defeat old rivals Spain after a 1-1 draw (goals from Chiesa and Alvaro Morata). Spain enjoyed most of the ball and nullified Italy’s attack for the most part, but coach Roberto Mancini’s side still found a way to get themselves into the Championship match.
England’s path to the Final had a more sedate start, with Gareth Southgate’s men narrowly defeating Croatia 1-0 before a dour goalless draw with Scotland which drew major criticism from their media. The Three Lions then edged the Czech Republic 1-0 to set up a Last 16 showdown with old nemesis Germany.
And it was against Der Mannschaft that England’s tournament really came alive: goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane saw the Three Lions to a famous triumph, and they carried that momentum into the Quarterfinals by thrashing the Ukraine 4-0 in Rome.
A Semi-final against Denmark appeared to be a mere formality but the Danish Dynamite opened the scoring through a brilliant goal from Mikkel Damsgard. With the dread of another Semi-final exit looming, England went up through the gears and equalised through an own goal from Simon Kjaer, before going on to dominate the rest of the match – finally breaking through in extra time with Harry Kane scoring from the rebound of his saved penalty for a narrow but deserved 2-1 triumph.
Italy – Federico Chiesa – The Juventus winger has been one of Italy’s top performers through the tournament, with his relentless positivity in the final third adding real impetus and drive to their attack. “I cannot describe my emotions in words. We’re coming back here on 11 July and we’ll see. We’ll see,” said the 23-year-old.
England – Harry Kane – The Three Lions captain had a slow start to the tournament but has become more and more influential as the pressure has grown. He now has the ultimate chance to cement his legacy as an England legend – and possibly even win the Golden Boot. “We know it’s going to be a very tough game against Italy. We’ve had a great tournament so far. One more game to go at home, and we can’t wait.”
Battles to watch
Roberto Mancini v Gareth Southgate – The tactical wrestling match between the two managers could well decide the destination of the trophy. Mancini was outsmarted by Spain’s Luis Enrique in the Semifinal and will need to find a way to ensure Southgate’s England do not have the control of possession they have generally enjoyed through the tournament.
Lorenzo Insigne v Kyle Walker – The Italian winger loves to cut inside off the left and shoot with his right foot, but he’ll need to be at his best to find pockets of space against Walker, who uses his pace to cover ground and put out defensive fires with such brilliant effect.
Giorgio Chiellini v Raheem Sterling – The Italian captain and centre-back has been brilliant through this tournament, but England would love to isolate him one-on-one against the pace and dribbling skill of Sterling, knowing that the Manchester City attacker would surely blitz the lanky defender.
In head-to-head terms, Italy and England have met in 27 matches dating back to 1933. The Azzurri have claimed 11 wins compared to eight for the Three Lions, while eight games have been drawn. The teams last met in an international friendly in March 2018 which ended 1-1 at Wembley (goals from Jamie Vardy and Lorenzo Insigne), while their last UEFA Euros meeting was in the Quarterfinals of the 2012 edition: the match in Kyiv ended 0-0 after 120 minutes before Italy triumphed 4-2 on penalties.
Did you know?
– Italy have appeared in three previous Euros Finals, defeating Yugoslavia on penalties to win the 1968 edition, while they lost in 2000 and 2012 at the hands of France and Spain respectively.
– This will be England’s first European Championship Final and a first appearance in a major tournament final since winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966.
– England are the 13th different nation to reach the Final. They previously had the unenviable record of playing the most Euro tournament games (37) without ever qualifying for a Final.
– The Golden Boot (top scorer) prize currently has Patrik Schick (Czech Republic) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) tied at the top with five goals each, but Harry Kane (England, four goals) could yet leapfrog them.
– UEFA Euro 2020 has seen 140 goals scored at an average of 2.8 per match.
– There have been no less than 11 own goals in Euro 2020. The previous 15 Euro tournaments combined had produced just nine!
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Match broadcast details
Sunday 11 July
7pm: Italy v England – LIVE on SuperSport Euro HD (224) and SuperSport Euro (132)