When England and Italy walk out of the tunnel of Wembley Stadium Sunday afternoon for the UEFA Euro 2020 final, it’ll be the first time these countries have met in the final of a major tournament. Italy haven’t won the Euros since 1968 and were embarrassed by Spain in 2012 when they lost 4-0. England have never made a Euro final before and now have the honor of playing their first one in their home country.
Between the two teams, they’ve only conceded four goals combined this tournament. Despite their defensive dominance, both sides have the firepower up top to make this a final to remember.
So, how do these two countries match up with one another? Who has the edge in what areas? And of course, who’s going to lift that trophy? Here’s how I see everything breaking down in the Euro 2020 final:
Both England and Italy have received great performances from their number one goalkeeper as the competition has gotten harder. England’s Jordan Pickford wasn’t even supposed to start for the national team but has since solidified himself in net and has made some huge stops down the stretch.
Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma barely had to lift a finger in the group stage but has since shown why he’s so highly rated in helping Italy beat Belgium and making a handful of saves in the penalty shootout vs. Spain.
Both goalies have been stellar up to this point, but there have been some brief, nervy moments with Pickford while Donnarumma has the experience of leading his team through a penalty shootout at this tournament already. Throw in the physical and athletic differences as well and you have to give the edge to the 22-year-old
England boast the best defensive record at Euro 2020 thanks to their back four which is equal parts Manchester United and Manchester City. Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire have been doing it on both ends, especially Shaw with his service into the box from the left side. Kyle Walker and John Stones have provided pace and strength respectively to lock-down the opposition.
However, no European team may be known more for their defense than the Italians. The center-back duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci may be old, but they’re still great at what they do. Giovanni Di Lorenzo has been good at right-back, but the loss of left-back Leonardo Spinazzola to a torn Achilles is a big blow.
The talent and form of these defenses would make one assume we are headed for a low-scoring final. While Italy may have written the book on defense, England have the advantage of being the more healthy and more youthful unit, which put them over the top.
The Italians will most likely roll with a midfield trio of Jorginho, Marco Verratti, and Nicolò Barella. England will counter with the holding midfield duo of Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice. In terms of who will play in front of those two, it looks like Mason Mount could get the initial nod.
Italy struggled vs. Spain because they were unable to get possession of the ball, and when they did, they had a hard time getting it to Jorginho. His passing ability, combined with the overall technical ability of Verratti and Barella, have helped Italy win every match at Euro 2020. Can England copy Spain’s blueprint with similar success?
On the flip side, can England’s midfield offer more than just an ability to break up what the Italians are doing? A key component of this match will be either midfield avoiding being overrun by the other. In terms of the group as a whole, Italy’s unit offers a bit more dynamism in what they do than England’s.
It took a while for England’s group of attackers to get going, but they arrive at the final in great form. Striker Harry Kane has scored in three straight matches and Raheem Sterling is in the running for Player of the Tournament. Most likely, it’ll be teenage sensation Bukayo Saka starting on the other side for the Three Lions.
Italy boast a pair of exciting wingers themselves in Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa. However, after scoring in the first two matches, striker Ciro Immobile hasn’t contributed much going forward.
Both teams rely heavily on this group to create goals and they are a big reason why each of them has made the final. It’s an even battle between the wingers for each side, but Kane’s recent form vs. Immobile’s struggles makes me trust England a little more.
Even if Phil Foden ends up missing out on the final, England have a wide variety of options to call upon during the later stages of this match. Jack Grealish has performed marvelously as a substitute and England also have an ample amount of speed in Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. The veteran presence of Jordan Henderson also can’t be undervalued.
Italy’s bench isn’t as deep, but they have options in defense and a few dynamic midfielders. Manuel Locatelli has scored multiple goals at this tournament and Federico Bernardeschi provides another creative option out wide.
This is probably the greatest discrepancy between the two. The depth of England may face its toughest test Sunday afternoon, but could also be what wins them the match.
Italy’s Roberto Mancini has already had plenty of success in his managerial career, but reinventing Italy after their failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup may be his greatest success. He’s provided them an offensive identity that has been severely lacking while still maintaining their defensive prowess.
Gareth Southgate has been much maligned during his tenure as the head of the English national team, but he has now led them to a World Cup semifinal and Euro final back-to-back. He’s gotten his tactics right this tournament, especially defensively.
Both coaches have been pretty consistent with their squad and formation selection and both aren’t afraid of changing personnel when needed. Their decision-making will now be even more scrutinized in a final. The success of each team this tournament shows that both should be confident in the man leading them come Sunday afternoon.
So, with all that being said, this has the makings of an epic final. Like I previously mentioned, based on the circumstances and the form of each team’s defense, I think the match will be low-scoring. It’s tough to predict how England will handle the pressure of playing in a final at Wembley, but they successfully navigated the semifinal vs. Denmark.
Italy have already been put in a tight situation with their penalty shootout win vs. Spain. England have also had the benefit of not quite playing the same level of competition as Italy, specifically in the knockout stages.
History and logic say that Italy will find a way to manage the game to either win in regulation or get it to a shootout, where they will be under considerably less pressure. However, this tournament has a “written in the stars” quality to it with England playing at home in their first Euro final. My guess is the defense holds firm once again and either Kane or Sterling bags a goal.
Prediction: It’s Coming Home