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Euro 2020 Final Preview

England meet Italy at Wembley in the final of Euro 2020, with England looking to win a first major international tournament since the 1966 World Cup in front of a home crowd. Italy come here on the back of a penalty shoot out win against Spain in the semi finals and whilst England didn’t quite need a penalty shoot out to get past Denmark, they did need a penalty in extra time from Harry Kane which was actually saved before the England Captain thumped home the rebound to send England through. Both sides have adopted a style of play in this tournament which has served them well. England have always set up to be tough to beat as the first point of call, with two holding midfielders, usually in Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice, they have provided a shield for the England defence which has made Gareth Southgate’s side a tough nut to crack. Italy have been much more attacking, often willing to sacrifice bodies defensively to have more men in and around the box when they get forward. This has meant trusting their veteran defence led by Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, who have looked as good as ever at this tournament. This promises to be an interesting game with contrasting styles, though I am very confident that neither manager will move away from what has got them this far.

In their 6 games played at this Euro’s, Italy have scored 12 goals, conceded 3, had 108 shots with 30 on target, have had an average possession of 53%, have been given 7 yellow cards, no red cards and taken 28 corners.

In their 6 games, England have scored 10 goals, conceded 1, had 57 shots with 26 on target, have had an average possession of 53.83%, have been given 5 yellow cards, no red cards and have taken 24 corners.

The referee for this game is Bjorn Kuipers (Holland), who this season has taken charge of 35 games. handing out 85 yellow cards and 4 red cards, for an average of 2.43 yellow cards per game and 0.11 red cards per game. In his career so far he has refereed 258 games, giving 842 yellow cards 39 red cards, for an average of 3.26 yellow cards per game and 0.15 red cards per game. At this tournament he has refereed 3 games, where he has given 10 yellow cards, no red cards and has awarded 1 penalty.

The bookmakers (All prices Skybet) have England as the slight favourites at 4/5 to lift the trophy, with Italy at even money. The Italians are 2/1 to win inside 90 minutes with a draw after regular time priced up at 21/10 and England are 6/4 to win inside 90 minutes (We are aware that Skybet have boosted England to win inside 90 minutes to 3/1, however as this is a boost and not the genuine price we won’t use that)

A day that many English fans thought they may never see, especially at Wembley, as this England team find themselves 90 minutes away from writing their names into football and English history. Italy were slightly disappointing against Spain, particularly in extra time they were on the back foot for pretty much the entire time with only brief counter attacking flashes. They actually had just 29% of possession across the regular 90 minutes and additional half an hour, which for an Italian side is incredibly low. Before the tournament my main worry for this Italy side was that the age of allot of their players may catch up to them in the later rounds, and I feel we potentially saw the cracks starting to appear against Spain. Bonucci has played the full game in 5 out of the 6 Italian games at this tournament, and with Italy needed extra time to beat Austria and penalties to beat Spain, that is allot of football in a short space of time for the 34 year old centre back. His partner Chiellini has played less but has still racked up a considerable amount of playing time, having played all 90 minutes against Belgium in the quarter finals and all 120 minutes in the semi-final win vs Spain. These are professional athletes but they are also 2 centre backs who are absolutely crucial to this new Italian style of play. Many times in this tournament we have seen Italy games become stretched and almost like basketball games with each team taking it in turn to attack, and Italy don’t seem to have minded when their games have gone that way. However, at the end of a major tournament when vital parts of their squad are starting to look fatigued, this England side is not what they would want to see. Whilst England have been playing a more defensive approach in this tournament, the one thing that Southgate seems to always get into his side is pace, especially on the counter attack. Wing backs like Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw have been willing to get forward and join the attacks, with the likes of Sterling, Saka, Rashford, Foden and Grealish being no slouches when greeted with an open field. Whilst England can’t match the experience that the Italian side have at the back, there is absolutely no doubt they have a huge advantage in terms of pace.

It will be interesting if Roberto Mancini changes his style at all in this game. The only thing he could do to combat the pace of the English side is to have his side sit deeper, as I can’t see him leaving out any of his defenders who have got him this far. Should he have his team sit deeper as they did against Spain will likely lead to similar possession stats that we saw in that semi final, and if England have 70% of the ball in this game then i can only see their being one winner. The problem that Italy have got is that England with two holding central midfielders are a difficult team to counter attack against. It has seemed in this tournament that many times when the other team is building an attack against England, one of Rice or Phillips cuts it out, and should that not happen then John Stones and Harry Maguire in particular have been very difficult to get past. Italy’s approach all tournament has been to commit numbers when they are attacking, and if they do that here I can easily see that being the difference between the two sides. Should Italy have their defenders isolated and high up the pitch against a counter attacking England side, they will do well to not concede. Italy have had nearly double the amount of shots that England have had at this tournament, though it is interesting that in terms of shots on target there is really not much difference (Italy 30, England 26), this tells us that when England are attacking they are often getting good opportunities to score from, which is not much of a surprise given the patient style of England who are more than happy to pass it around the wing backs and midfield before the right opportunity presents itself.

I actually see this particular passage of play as Italy’s best chance of getting good attacking opportunities. We have become familiar with passages in the middle of the park where the England centre backs spray balls out to the wing backs and into the midfielders, and should they feel it’s not the right time to launch an attack they will happily go back to the centre backs and start the whole process over again. If Italy can pressure England at this stage and force a mistake then I feel Italy will have some joy getting at the England defence. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Italy look to get the ball into the box early, Jordan Pickford who is often solid for his country has been looking more and more flustered as the tournament has progressed. There were balls into the box in their semi final against Denmark that looked to be pretty routine catches for an International goalkeeper, but instead he elected to punch and parry the ball away rather than claiming the catch. Denmark obviously targeted this, as was obvious with their corner routine of crowding the six yard box, and whilst I don’t expect Italy to be as aggressive targeting Pickford, this is an area where the English goalkeeper has yet to convince at this tournament.

I can see England controlling possession in the early stages, as Italy are sure to be wary of going behind against this England side who have proven to be very stubborn front runners under Southgate. Italy will work their way into the game and gradually have their back line press higher up the field as they grow in confidence the older the game gets. I can’t find much to separate the two teams, though I do feel the pace of this England side is what will prove the difference in the end. If England can navigate the Italian press and avoid giving the ball away in the middle of the park, they should be able to use the pace of their wide men to make runs in behind and get looks at goal. Should Italy commit numbers to the attack then I expect England to look to counter at every opportunity. The one thing Jordan Pickford does usually offer is quality distribution, and I expect him to waste no time in launching attacks if he ends up with the ball, and I expect him to go long looking for Sterling who is already running in behind. In terms of the result I feel the best bet at the odds is probably is a draw, with England’s safety first approach and Italy being well aware of not wanting to leave their defence isolated to England counter attacks, I feel there is a good chance that this game could end 0-0 or 1-1 in a low or no scoring draw after 90 minutes. Should that happen I would expect the game to take a similar shape to the Spain vs Italy semi-final, with England controlling possession as Italy become leggy and look to cling on to get to penalties. I would not be surprised should England snatch it in extra time, or if the game goes to penalties and then its anybody’s guess who goes home with the trophy. Whilst I will definitely be cheering for England to bring it home, I feel that this is a real 50/50 game and we could be in for a late one with little to separate the two teams.

The best bets in this game are

England to win in extra time – 10/1 Skybet

Either team to win on penalties – 9/2 Skybet

Jorginho and Kalvin Phillips both to be carded – 10/1 William Hill

Raheem Sterling to score first and England to win 2-1 – 50/1 Skybet

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