England vs Italy in the EURO 2020 Final, Shocked Much?
The word historic is often overused in sporting contests. Normally it features two titans of the sport duking it out for the silverware and the right to use the title of No 1, the winner, the Champions.
Well, we have news for you… we’re doing the same. Why, because what you’re about to witness on Sunday will be historic!
It’s Italy vs England… who would’ve thought!?
But, before we get into the nitty gritty, unless you’ve been purposely avoiding all this football fuss, it’s been a shocking tournament.
Tournament of Shocks
Yes, it was a shocking tournament. When we originally talked about the EUROs, the pundits were saying it could be the 2018 World Champions France, who would win. Didier Deschamps’ France were the clear favourites, then they were then knocked out in the penalty shootout with Switzerland.
What about Joachim Low’s Mannschaft? Could the Germans raise the trophy again? England beat them in a decisive 2 – 0 victory in the Quarter Finals.
Oh come on now… Spain? It was an incredibly tough game for Luis Enrique’s men but it was a missed penalty by Alvaro Morata during the penalty shootout against Italy, that sent them home.
Why is Portugal not there? Would you believe it. The defending champions were riding high with Christiano Ronaldo set to beat the world record on the most goals scored by any player in an international tournament. But, it was Belgium’s Thorgan Hazard who scored the only goal of the match, that knocked Portugal out.
Let’s not forget the incredible performances from Denmark, whom had lost their star player Christian Eriksen in the first game. Likewise, we also had the first appearances of the Finnish and the North Macedonians facing off against opponents with more experience.
And the final is on Sunday?
Ole Ole Ole!
One half of Sunday’s pitch at Wembley stadium is a powerhouse of European football.
Arguably, Italy’s performance in the past decade or so has been very mixed. Despite the embarrassment of failing to compete in the international tournament in Russia back in 2018, Roberto Mancini has managed to pull the team out of the doldrums and lined them up for a possible EUROs victory.
The esteemed former player and manager said that there are games that test a team’s mettle. However, despite the doubters, it was the strong self-belief in the team that helped them prevail.
‘When you’re involved in such an intense tournament, there always comes a game where you have to dig in and suffer,’ Mancini said, adding that ‘Almost no one believed we could do it, but the players believed right from day one we could do something incredible.’
These comments came following their Semi-Final win against Spain, in which they faced the mighty Red Fury, who dominated possession of the ball. After not being able to break the 1 – 1 deadlock well into Extra Time, it was ultimately Penalties that sealed Italy’s final route. Did someone say Gareth Southgate?
The Italian side will be no walkover. Mancini’s men hold equal footing with England on performance in the tournament, having won 5 of their 6 games and drawing on the 6th. They’ve scored 12 goals compared to England’s 10 and made double the number of attempts on goal compared to England, 108 compared to 58.
Interestingly, when comparing their passing attempts and completed passes, England comes out slightly better. The Three Lions have an overall passing accuracy of 87.7% of which 3389 passes were attempted and 2984 were completed. The Italians have an overall passing accuracy of 86.3% of which 3446 were attempted and 2993 were completed.
The Italians are big on their high tempo attacking and possession play. According to UEFA’s stats, Italy made 318 attacks compared to England’s 256.
Covering ground and fatigue are also areas for both teams to contend with. According to stats compiled by the Guardian (ahead of the Semi-Finals), Italy did have more ground covered compared to England. In their report, they stated that while Spain was the dominant team going into the Semis, Italy had covered a total of 587 kilometres compared to England’s 524.6 kilometres.
Interestingly, players occupying the 2nd and 3rd positions on UEFA’s player stats on distance covered are Italy’s Jorginho with 72.3 kms covered and England’s Phillips with 76.3 km.
While it makes sense with Italy’s style of play, it also bodes the question of how physically demanding the game will be. Passing the ball, attacking and delivering the ball on target are the aim of the game, conserving energy, managing resources and preparing for possible Extra Time and even Penalties, are key.
Wildest dreams anyone?
The other half of the Wembley ground will be plodded by England. Yes, England. Surprised? Most people are. This will be the first major tournament in 55 years that the England national squad has made it to the final. If they raise the trophy on Sunday, they’ll join the annals of English sporting history, right next to Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton in 1966.
For the Three Lions, EURO 2020 is arguably their most impressive tournament to date. From their first group stage game against Croatia on the 13th June, to the penultimate Semi-final against Denmark last Wednesday (7th July), the team has only conceded 1 goal, drawn once (with Scotland) and won all the rest of their games.
While England wiped the floor with Ukraine with a 4 – 0 victory in the Quarter Finals, there were moments in their Semi-final game with Denmark where their aspirations could’ve been cut short. A much debated penalty awarded to England, would seal their fate for Sunday. Talking of penalties and homecoming…
Three Lions on a Shirt
If you’re old enough to know that song, then you’re in good company. If you’ve never ever heard of this song before… check it out before you continue reading. We’re talking about the popular theme song connected with the England Squad during the EUROs in 1996, back when England were the host nation. The optimistic ballad from the Lightning Seeds about ‘Football Coming Home’, would get put into the CD player during every contest that England qualified for, from thence forward.
Aside from David Baddiel and Frank Skinner trying to sing, many an England fan will remember or have been told about the fateful night that would haunt the man who would become England’s manager.
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Has the nightmare ended?
It’s a night that is scorched into Gareth Southgate’s memories.
England and Germany were still 1 – 1 by the time the whistle blew on 30 minutes of Extra time in their Semi-final match and it was time for penalties. Despite Alan Shearer, David Platt, Stuart Pearce, Paul Gascoigne and Teddy Sheringham successfully beating the German keeper, for Gareth Southgate, it was not to be.
Andreas Kopke saved Southgate’s punt, Germany’s Andreas Moller beats David Seaman to bring the score to 6 – 5 and England crash out of the EUROS.
That is why England’s chances under Southgate were initially met with scepticism. He earned many a fan’s respect following England’s performance in Russia in 2018. This EURO final will probably feel like the dawn is approaching after the darkest night.
Will Italy raise the trophy for a second time? Will England raise their first international trophy since 1966? What did you think of the tournament?
Join Mr Green for all the odds on Europe’s biggest final.