MX23RW : Friday, September 24 21:33:56| >> :600:797280:797280:
Jul 11, 2021 at 8pm UK at Wembley Stadium
ItalyItaly
1-1
EnglandEngland
Bonucci (67')
Barella (47'), Bonucci (55'), Insigne (84'), Chiellini (90+6'), Jorginho (114')
FT
(aet)
Shaw (2')
Maguire (106')
Italy win 3-2 on penalties

Preview: Italy vs. England - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's European Championship clash between Italy and England, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

The curtain closes on a mesmerizing summer of Euro 2020 football this Sunday, as supporters arrive at Wembley Stadium en masse to witness Italy and England do battle for the continental championship trophy.

Roberto Mancini's side booked their place in the showpiece event after coming up trumps in nerve-wracking penalty shootout against Spain, while England needed 120 minutes of their own to send Denmark packing 2-1 in the semi-finals.

It has been 53 years since Italy got their hands on the trophy, while the Three Lions are playing in their first major tournament final for 55 years as Gareth Southgate endeavours to write his own chapter of history.


Match preview

Italy manager Roberto Mancini reacts against Austria at Euro 2020 on June 26, 2021© Reuters

During Manchester City's infamous Premier League title win of 2012, Robert Mancini was warned by Martin Tyler that he would "never see anything like this ever again". Win the Euros with Italy, however, and that will surely be a close second.

With the wise old heads in defence, an irrepressible trio of talent in midfield and a fear-inducing attacking trident, Italy may have gone under the radar slightly before the first ball was kicked at Euro 2020, but the continental dominance has been there for all to see since 2018.

Failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia seems totally incomprehensible given how Mancini's men have swept aside the competition over the past three years, but not since the days of Dino Zoff and Luigi Riva have the Azzurri stepped foot onto the turf for a European Championship final and come up trumps.

However, the Italians may just be 90 minutes away from ending that agonising 53-year wait for continental silverware, as after sweeping aside Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in the group stage without shipping a single goal, Mancini's men did the business in three gruelling knockout encounters.

Italy celebrate beating Spain on penalties at Euro 2020 on July 6, 2021© Reuters

Even though Austria's Sasa Kalajdzic broke the Italians' unfathomable defensive resilience in the last-16 stage, Italy pulled through by two goals to one before dumping out the world's number-one ranked nation in Belgium by the same scoreline to set up a Wembley outing with Luis Enrique's Spain side in the final four.

A sweeping counter-attack ultimately ended with Federico Chiesa finding the far corner past a stranded Unai Simon before Alvaro Morata linked up expertly with Dani Olmo to fire in the equaliser for La Roja, but the Juventus forward would soon go from hero to zero in front of several of his Bianconeri teammates in blue.

After Manuel Locatelli and Olmo both failed to find the back of the net from 12 yards, Morata saw his tame effort kept out by Gianluigi Donnarumma before Jorginho - with ice running through his veins - tucked away his traditional hop, skip and jump penalty in front of a delirious set of supporters.

Despite boasting just 30% of possession and taking seven shots on goal compared to Spain's 16, Italy and their 14-game winning run - as well as a 33-game unbeaten run, during which they boast a remarkable goal difference of +76 - prepare for their 10th major tournament final hoping that the third time will be the charm following defeats at the final hurdle in 2000 and 2012.

Nine years on from leading City to their first-ever Premier League title, Mancini is now set to become the second English top-flight winning manager to lead a European country out for a major tournament final. The first? 1966 England luminary Alf Ramsey. But now, there is a new celebrated name in the opposing dugout who has already won the hearts of the nation.

England manager Gareth Southgate celebrates after the match on June 13, 2021© Reuters

The demons of 1996 have been banished, the chants of Sweet Caroline and Three Lions are being belted out at full volume, and England are in the Euro 2020 final. Following 18 months of coronavirus chaos which has led to devastating consequences on and off the pitch, the nation will come together to witness Gareth Southgate lead his history-making hopefuls out in the English capital ahead of their biggest game in 55 years.

Amid reports speculating that a full arena of spectators could be welcomed to Wembley to watch England play in a major tournament final for the first time since the turn of the millennium, Southgate - who could supposedly become Sir Gareth if his endeavours are successful - is reaping the rewards of taking on one of the most scrutinised and unforgiving jobs in the international footballing landscape.

Fans may be wondering whether bowing out at Euro 2016 to minnows Iceland was simply just a bad dream, as under Southgate's tutelage, England may not have dazzled and delighted on the attacking front, but his often impenetrable rearguard navigated five European Championship games without conceding a goal.

However, any hopes of making history with a sixth clean sheet were quickly wiped out against Denmark - an inspired nation being roared on by the neutrals - as Mikkel Damsgaard's unstoppable free kick silenced the England contingent while those in red made their presence known.

England's Harry Kane scores against Denmark at Euro 2020 on July 7, 2021© Reuters

Only nine minutes after conceding their first goal at the tournament, England's usual suspects were up to their old tricks one more. Harry Kane - creator and goalscorer - fed a delightful ball through to teenage sensation Bukayo Saka, whose pass was intended for Raheem Sterling but instead deflected into the back of the net off Denmark captain Simon Kjaer.

The Danes did not let their heads drop as Kasper Schmeichel produced a performance his father would have been immensely proud of, but with 104 minutes on the clock, Sterling controversially went down in the area and Kane tapped home at the second attempt after seeing a surprisingly tame spot kick saved.

When Danny Makkelie's full-time whistle blew, scenes of unbridled jubilation followed for England, who had previously tried and failed to reach the final in nine European Championship campaigns. However, the last two nations to host the final - Portugal in 2004 and France in 2016 - both ended up on the losing side.

Italy's jaw-dropping unbeaten run may make the headlines, but England can at least boast 11 wins and one draw from their last 12 games in all competitions, and 15 of the Three Lions' last 17 encounters at Wembley Stadium have seen them march to victory.

Only a handful of the 1966 heroes are still around to watch the current England crop try to emulate their success, but Southgate's men - whether Sunday ends in joy or despair - will hope to have inspired the next generation of world-beaters to pick up that football, lace up their boots and follow in the footsteps of Kane and co.

As two heavyweight European forces prepare to collide in front of fans, former players and royalty, nations across the continent will undoubtedly smile back on a tournament like none other following a year like none other, and one can only hope that restrictions, quarantines and behind-closed-doors encounters will be distant memories by Qatar 2022.

Italy European Championship form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

England European Championship form:
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W



Team News

Italy's Leonardo Spinazzola goes down injured against Belgium at Euro 2020 on July 2, 2021© Reuters

While Roberto Mancini is working with a near fully-fit squad for the Euro 2020 final, thoughts will be spared for the unfortunate Leonardo Spinazzola, who caught the eye with his showings at left-back before rupturing his Achilles tendon against Belgium.

The Roma man is now facing a painful six-month rehabilitation spell as Emerson Palmieri prepares to step foot onto familiar surroundings in his place, while Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci - at a combined age of 70 - will shield soon-to-be Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Locatelli's performances in the group stage led to reported interest from Arsenal and Juventus among others, but Marco Verratti's return to fitness has forced the Sassuolo man to take a back seat as the silky PSG man links up with Jorginho and Nicolo Barella in the engine room.

Ciro Immobile made headlines for all the wrong reasons with his antics against Belgium, but the Lazio man is under no pressure up top from Andrea Belotti as Mancini keeps faith in the attacking trio of Chiesa, Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne.

The Azzurri coach has had a full selection of players available to him following their semi-final win over Spain - barring Spinazzola - and an unchanged lineup should take to the field despite two laborious 120-minute encounters.

England also came through 120 minutes of football against Denmark largely unscathed, and as he has done all summer long, Southgate must decide between another 4-2-3-1 setup or the three-man defence which worked to great effect against Germany.

The Three Lions coach has largely settled on his strongest XI despite his penchant for tweaking formation, and the only uncertainty for the rearguard would be whether Kyle Walker moves in centrally in a three or continues out on the right-hand side in a four.

Luke Shaw will have the inenviable task of keeping Chiesa quiet as Harry Maguire and John Stones form a more youthful centre-back pairing than that of their counterparts, while Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips are set to resume their midfield partnership.

Saka was once again given the nod on the right for the semi-final and played a key role in his side's equaliser, so the Arsenal teenager should not be dropped despite pressure from the likes of Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden - who is doubtful with a foot issue - and Jack Grealish.

Kane is after a slice of his own personal history here, as a goal in the final would see him overtake Gary Lineker as England's most prolific goalscorer in major tournaments, while he is only three away from breaking into the top five of the Three Lions' all-time scoring charts.

Italy possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Jorginho, Barella, Verratti; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne

England possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Phillips; Saka, Mount, Sterling; Kane


Head To Head

Sunday's Euro 2020 final marks the 28th meeting between Italy and England in all competitions, with the Azzurri boasting 11 wins compared to eight for the Three Lions.

Italy knocked England out on penalties en route to the Euro 2012 final, and the Azzurri also prevailed in the only other European Championship meeting between the two sides - a 1-0 win during the group stage of Euro 1980.

However, the two nations have played out two 1-1 draws in friendlies since 2015, and victory for England at Wembley would also mark the first time in history that they have beaten Italy at a major tournament.


SM words green background

We say: Italy 2-2 England (a.e.t, Italy to win on penalties)

Both teams have the defence solidity required to shut up shop. Both teams have the attacking guile required to breach the other's rearguard. There are no two ways about it - this will be a final for the ages.

The loss of Spinazzola is undoubtedly huge for Italy, and with the likes of Saka and Sterling testing the old guard's pace with their runs in behind, we would not put it past England's attackers to notch up a couple of goals here.

However, we do not think this encounter will be settled over the course of 90 or even 120 minutes. No fan from either nation wants the final to be decided by a penalty shootout, but that is the direction we expect Sunday's battle to head in, and Mancini's side will hope to rely on their recent experience from 12 yards to prevent football from coming home.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data


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How you voted: Italy vs Englvs

Italy
65.8%
England
34.2%
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England duo Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw celebrate against Ukraine at Euro 2020 on July 3, 2021
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