After what has been a fantastic month of football, Euro 2020 will come to an end this Sunday as England face Italy at Wembley in the final. Euro 2020 is being played in 2021 with Free Live Streaming on BBC iPlayer and ITV Sport. Need an England Euro 2020 Football VPN?
While both sides are always classed among the favourites of each tournament before a ball is kicked, you’d have gotten pretty long odds on these two lining up against each other on July 11th if you’d visited your local Paddy Power before the tournament started.
🇮🇹 Italy vs England 🏴
📺 Free Live Euro 2020 Streaming on BBC + Catchup on BBC iPlayer
📅 11 July 2021
⏰ 2000 BST
The first game of the competition did feature Italy, fittingly, as they walloped Turkey 3-0 in Rome to announce themselves as serious contenders. They followed that win up with an equally comprehensive victory over Switzerland, before resting everybody and enjoying the most comfortable 1-0 victory you could imagine over Wales. Job done, group topped. Nine points from nine, the Italians were on their way.
England began their campaign by exacting some revenge with a 1-0 win over Croatia, who had ended their World Cup dreams in 2018. A 0-0 draw with Scotland followed before another 1-0 win, this time over the Czech Republic, saw them secure passage through to the next round as group winners. Seven points in the bag, and no goals conceded. They weren’t playing particularly well, certainly not as well as this Sunday’s opponents were in the group stage, but they were rock solid defensively.
Having comfortably swept aside their three group stage opponents, Italy were expected to handle Austria easily in the Round of 16 but David Alaba and co were in no mood to be pushed around and dragged the Italians into deep water before finally succumbing to their quality of the Azzurri in extra time. Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina grabbed the goals to send them through 2-1, but not before Sasa Kalajdzic’s late goal meant a couple of uneasy minutes for Roberto Mancini and his staff of coaches.
Revenge was once again the name of the game for England in the Round of 16 as the Old Enemy, Germany, arrived at Wembley in a replay of the Euro 1996 semi-final that saw millions of hearts break when football didn’t quite make it home. Among those hearts, was that of England manager Gareth Southgate who missed the crucial penalty that handed Germany the advantage on the night and saw England eliminated when Andreas Moller blasted his penalty past David Seaman.
Raheem Sterling, who had scored both goals for England in the group stages, was once again the man to break the deadlock as his 75th minute goal lit up a tense affair that seemed destined for extra-time. Eleven minutes later Harry Kane, to that point arguably the worst player in an England shirt for every minute he’d played in the tournament, popped up to head home Jack Grealish’s cross and secure England’s place in the last eight.
With France having been defeated in the round of 16, and Spain looking extremely unconvincing, Italy’s quarter final match with Belgium was seen by many as the true semi-final in the top half of the draw, and potentially the match that would provide us with the tournaments outright winner. Belgium began strongly but Italy grew into the game and produced somewhat of a masterclass in how to dominate and then control a football match.
Brilliant goals from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne gave the Azzurri a 2-0 lead, and despite giving up a penalty, which Lukaku dispatched with confidence, just before half-time, Italy remained firmly in control of the game and limited a very talented Belgian side to mere pot-shots from distanced. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, aged 34 and 36 respectively, put on a clinic in how to cope with Romelu Lukaku who is arguably the best number 9 in world football right now. The veteran Juventus duo showed brilliant adaptability, reading of the game, understanding of space and position and sheer doggedness, to keep the Inter Milan striker quiet in the second half.
England’s task was easier, and more straightforward, but did mean their first game away from Wembley in this tournament. Playing, ironically, in Rome, England demolished Ukraine after an early Harry Kane goal, followed by an early second half goal from Harry Maguire put the game to bed. Kane would add a second before Jordan Henderson notched his first international goal on the night of his 62nd appearance for his country. For the first time in the tournament, England resembled the side that had gotten to the World Cup semi-final, maximising their set-pieces and creating high probability chances. Each of England’s goals came from inside eight yards, with the Maguire and Henderson goals being headers from set-pieces while Kane’s goals were laid on a plate for him by a brilliant Raheem Sterling through-ball and a Luke Shaw cross.
And so we found ourselves in the semi-finals, and once again it was Italy with the more difficult task. Taking on an unpredictable Spanish team that despite it’s flaws is still littered with top class players, Italy controlled large spells of the game before going 1-0 up through a brilliant Federico Chiesa goal. Spain would hit back when substitute Alvaro Morata worked his way through the Italian back-line after a one-two with Dani Olmo and beat Donnarumma with a tidy finish. Italy appeared to accept penalties at that point and the extra-time period produced nothing of note.
Spain, having beaten Switzerland on penalties in the quarter-final, looked to have gained the advantage when Locatelli missed Italy’s first spot-kick but then Olmo missed Spain’s first to even things up. Belotti and Bonucci both scored for Italy, Moreno and Alcantara both scored for Spain. Then Bernardeschi almost took the net off with a perfect penalty before Alvaro Morata stepped up and saw his poor penalty easily saved by Donnarumma. Jorginho was handed the task of sending Italy through to their fourth European Championships Final and with a hop, skip and stroke of his right foot he did just that.
Then it was England’s turn as they took on the story of the tournament, the team who had won the hearts of football fans every where, Denmark. After overcoming the Christian Eriksen incident, the disgraceful behaviour by UEFA and defeats in their first two matches, the Danes had turned things around with different shape and style of play. Their high-tempo aggressive style looked ideal to cause England problems but instead they started out in a very deep defensive shape and invited England on to them. England obliged and had the better of the first 16 or so minutes before a Jordan Pickford error almost handed the opening goal to Denmark.
The Danes seemed to take that as a sign and took control of the game, physically and tactically outplaying England on and off the ball, creating chances and bullying England whenever they saw fit. Mikkel Damsgaard’s stunning free0kick put them 1-0 up and ended England’s run of clean sheets. The Danes then retreated back into their defensive set as England came back swinging. A Simon Kjaer own-goal brought the teams level before half-time and seemed to set the game up nicely for the second half. Instead, the Danes continued to play deep and relied on counter attacks, while England dominated the ball. Kasper Schmeichel denied Harry Maguire and Harry Kane with excellent saves and the game went to extra time, where nothing changed. Until Raheem Sterling dived. That’s right, Raheem Sterling dived and won a penalty. Joakim Maehle made no contact but Sterling fooled the referee and won a penalty. As the old saying goes, if you’re not cheating then you’re not trying. Harry Kane would miss the penalty but was first to the rebound and send England through to their first ever European Championship Finals.
These nations have met twice before at previous Euros. In 1980 Italy beat England 1-0 in a group stage match in Turin, en route to winning their first and only European Championships to date. A 79th minute Marco Tardelli goal was the difference between the sides in what was a tense affair.
The second meeting between the sides is remembered as perhaps the most one side 0-0 draw in history. The 2012 quarter-final meeting in Kyiv was the scene of an Andrea Pirlo masterclass as Italy passed England to death before beating them 4-2 on penalties, with Pirlo making a mockery of Joe Hart with a brilliant panenka penalty. Italy would go on to lose the final 4-0 to a Spanish team who won their third international competition in a row.
This will be Italy’s fourth final, a win in 1980 and that defeat in 2012 came either side of defeat in extra-time to France in 2000. That French side was, at the time, regarded as one of the best international teams ever so the Italians do have the excuse of having only lost to truly great teams. This England team aren’t a truly great team but they have improved as this tournament has gone on, they are at home in front of their fans at Wembley and they are ranked higher than Italy in the current FIFA rankings.
England are also at full strength. Gareth Southgate will have a full squad to choose from, but the same is not true for Roberto Mancini. Leonardo Spinzzola, arguably the best left back in the competition alongside Luke Shaw, is ruled out after tearing his Achilles tendon in the Belgium game and there are doubts over Federico Chiesa who went off against Spain with a suspected hamstring injury. Emerson Palmieri of Chelsea started at left-back in the Spain match and will likely start there again for the final, while Domenico Berardi would seem the likely replacement on the right side of the attack in Chiesa isn’t fit enough to start. Berardi began the competition in the starting 11 and was excellent in the first two games so there won’t be many concerns if he is called upon to start, or come off the bench.
While the standard of football hasn’t always been of the highest level, the sheer drama of this competition places it among the best we’ve ever seen. Hopefully England and Italy produce a final worthy of what has come before.
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