The European club season is over and it was exciting, nevertheless gruelling. But until the new season begins in August, International football takes the centre stage. And to kick it all off is the Finalissima.
The Finalissima is a Super Cup match between the winner of Copa America and the Euros.
Therefore, Italy is set to take on Argentina tonight at the Wembley stadium.
And to be honest, the hype for this fixture is a little watered down than expected. Perhaps, this is due to the timing of the fixture or more logically, the true essence of it all.
Even then, both teams, especially the managers, will be keen to measure their current quality and competitive levels.
This presents a fascinating encounter for many curious football minds as to what this competition could represent in future.
How Italy Made It To Wembley
Indeed, having competed excellently in the qualification stage for the 2020 Euros, Italy had come into the reckoning for the finals.
The Azurri lived up to the hype, in fact, from the first match. They eased past Turkey, Switzerland and Wales by an aggregate score of 7-0.
The round of 16 was tougher with Roberto Mancini’s men needing two extra-time goals to defeat Austria.
They overcame a largely depleted Belgium side in the last eight before managing to see off Spain on penalties.
The final game against England felt a little anticlimactic until it reached penalties. They became Champions of Europe winning 3-2.
Argentina’s Passage To The Finalissimo
Argentina had continually come close to lifting the Copa America title since 1993. And yet, it had managed to elude them, especially in three previous finals between 2007 and 2016.
Improving with every match, the Albiceleste defeated Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia in the group stages.
Lionel Messi was in inspiring form in the quarterfinal tie against Ecuador with a goal and two assists.
A penalty-shootout win was what it took to advance to the final at the expense of Colombia.
And against their eternal rivals, Brazil, at the Maracana, Angel Di Maria’s cute finish was the difference.
What To Expect
Both teams have been on opposite trajectories since they last won their continental Championships.
Italy has regressed quite badly. The European Champions lost to Spain in the semi-finals of the 2021 UEFA Nations League.
To make things even worse, they lost to North Macedonia in the World Cup playoffs. In effect, the 2006 World cup winners have now failed to qualify for two consecutive tournaments.
On the other hand, Argentina cruised past the qualification stage unscathed. Lionel Scaloni’s men did not lose a match.
The revived Finalissima will be keenly contested. If nothing, Mancini will be desperate to repair his side’s reputation beginning with this fixture. The Nations League gets off this weekend.
The Italian boss will require plenty in midfield from Marco Verratti and Jorginho. Lorenzo Insigne and Nicolo Zaniola will be keen to perform in attack.
Messi remains the biggest threat for the South Americans amid an average season with PSG. And yet the likes of Lautaro Martinez and Di Maria could just prove the difference.
The unity in their camp could also count for much, especially in relation to cohesion and fluidity.
It is safe to expect that neither team will be willing to overexert in this fixture following an exhaustive season. However, an early goal could really spark up something frantic. There will be no extra time as well.
Prediction: Argentina win and under 3.5 goals