After 50 matches at 11 different cities and 11 stadiums, it all comes down to the final this Sunday to determine the winner of the UEFA Euro 2020. Italy will battle England for the most prestigious title on the continent. Is football coming home or is it coming to Rome?
It has been a jolly good ride, producing plenty of fan excitement, surprises, emotions and drama.
The defending champions, Portugal tripped at the second hurdle by the Red Devils, who lost out to the Azzurri.
The world champions, France were tipped as the favourites pre-tournament, but they were dramatically sent packing by a spirited Switzerland team.
The Netherlands failed to live up to the hype, losing to the Czech Republic. They had steamrolled every team in the group stages.
The tournament has produced lots of excellent goals and outstanding saves from the goalkeepers.
When both teams take to Wembley for the final match of the tournament, there will be all to play for. Yet, only one team will be the winner at the end of the proceedings.
Italy’s Journey To The Final
After failing to qualify for the last edition, Italy under Roberto Mancini came into this tournament as one of the dark horses.
They had breezed through the qualifiers, winning all 10 matches and conceding just four goals. Mancini’s men still needed to prove themselves.
The former world champions comfortably defeated Turkey in the first match 3-0. They overcame Switzerland by the same margin to book a place in the second round. The Italian manager was able to rest more players for the final group stage match against Wales. They edged past Rob Page’s side by a single goal.
It was not business as usual in the second round where they were billed to take on a revitalised Austrian team. They needed two extra-time goals from Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina to win 2-1 and book a quarterfinal spot.
Facing a depleted Belgium team with captain, Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne ruled out, Italy saw off Roberto Martinez’s men in impressive fashion.
Their truest test came against Spain in the semi-final. In truth, they chased the game for plenty of it. La Roja dominated the possession and created the clearest chances until Chiesa produced a fine finish to open the scoring. With 10 minutes to go, substitute, Alvaro Morata was on hand to stroke the ball sweetly past Gianluigi Donnarumma for the equaliser. Both sides couldn’t be separated in extra time and needed penalties. Jorginho scored the decisive penalty to send Italy into the finals.
England’s Road To The Final
England came into this tournament needing to quell a few doubts.
The Three Lions managed a slim one-nil victory over familiar opponents, Croatia with Raheem Sterling scoring his first international goal in a major tournament.
Gareth Southgate’s men played out a drab goalless draw against Scotland before Sterling scored again in the final match against the Czech Republic to progress as group winners.
Their path to the final was going to be relatively easy but they would need to defeat Germany. In a match of very fine margins, they scored two goals in the final 15 minutes to advance to the quarterfinals.
England was utterly rampant against Ukraine who had qualified as one of the best losers from the group stages. Harry Kane scored a brace and Jordan Henderson scored his first international goal as they trounced Andriy Shevchenko’s men 4-0.
It was now down to the match against a well-motivated final to guarantee passage to the final. A Danish team that used the Christian Eriksen incident as a source of motivation.
Mikkel Damsgaard opened the scoring for the Danes with the purest of strikes from a free-kick. However, the hosts restored parity when Bukayo Saka’s cross was bundled into the net by Simon Kjaer. Kane then scored from his penalty rebound to earn England the remaining final spot to face Italy. It was their first major international final for 55 years.
What To Expect
Both teams will be leaving no stone unturned when they faceoff this Sunday.
Italy are on a 33-match unbeaten run. A streak that dates back to September 2018. The Azzurri will be keen to keep one more and clinch a major trophy for the first time since 2006.
The defensive pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini has conceded just three goals at this tournament. Sterling and Saka will look to test the duo for pace.
Jorginho will need to cover more grounds in midfield to battle Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice. Meanwhile, Ciro Immobile will have to be content with fewer touches as he goes toe-to-toe against the defensive pair of John Stones and Harry Maguire.
With Leonardo Spinazzola injured for the long term, Lorenzo Insigne will be doing it all alone on the left wing.
England, on the other hand will be desperate to win this title. It may be now or never!
The defence will continue to remain the foundation for Southgate’s side. A defence that has conceded just one goal throughout the competition.
Kane will need to do more of what he has done all tournament- drop deep and be involve himself in the playmaking. His movements can help draw the Italy defenders out of position as Sterling and Saka take up the vacated spaces.
Italy is the slight favourite based on its overall tournament performance. However, England will have plenty to say about the eventual outcome.
May the best team win!