The narrative arc is clear for the EURO 2020 final between Italy and England on Sunday at Wembley: is football coming home or going to Rome?
The United Kingdom will likely come to a standstill on Sunday as Queen Elizabeth and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent good luck messages to the home team for their big day.
Gareth Southgate’s side have reached the European Championship title match for the first time, ending England’s 55-year wait for a major final appearance.
Standing in England’s way are a battle-hardened Italy side who have restored the nation’s pride after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
England have never beaten Italy at a major tournament, although meetings between the nations have been few and far between.
Italy triumphed in a penalty shoot-out in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals and won 2-1 when they met in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, though both sides ended up being eliminated in the first round.
The teams have been transformed since that low point.
Euro 2020 campaign stats: Italy
- Although Italy needed penalties to beat Spain in the semi-final, the Azzurri have now stretched their unbeaten run to 33 internationals (W27 D6), breaking a national record that had lasted since the 1930s. Their last defeat was 1-0 against Portugal in Lisbon in the UEFA Nations League on 10 September 2018.
- Having never scored three goals in a EURO finals game before this tournament, Italy managed it in both their first two matches, beating Switzerland and Turkey 3-0 at the Olimpico in Rome, where they secured first place in Group A with a 1-0 defeat of Wales on Matchday 3.
- Italy squeezed past Austria in the last 16 in London, extra-time goals from substitutes Chiesa (95) and Matteo Pessina (105) taking them into a fourth successive EURO quarter-final.
- In the last eight, first-half goals from Nicolò Barella (31) and Insigne (44) set up a 2-1 win against Belgium at the Football Arena Munich, Italy extending their winning EURO run to 15 games and ending Belgium’s at 14 in the process.
- Italy’s sequence of victories was ended by the 1-1 draw in the semi-finals against Spain, Chiesa again on target, before the Azzurri prevailed 4-2 on penalties with Jorginho converting the decisive kick.
- Federico Chiesa’s goal against Spain was his second in succession at Wembley, the Juventus forward having also scored at the stadium in the round of 16 victory against Austria. It was just his third for Italy on his 31st appearance, however, the only one prior to UEFA EURO 2020 having completed the scoring in the Azzurri’s closing 9-1 qualifying win against Armenia.
- Chiesa is one of five Italy players with two goals at UEFA EURO 2020 – along with Ciro Immobile, Manuel Locatelli, Lorenzo Insigne and Matteo Pessina.
Euro 2020 campaign stats: England
- In the group stage of this tournament England beat Croatia and the Czech Republic both 1-0 either side of a goalless draw against Scotland. All three games took place at Wembley.
- England then overcame Germany 2-0 in the round of 16, again at Wembley, thanks to second-half goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. It was their first EURO knockout win since beating Spain on penalties in the EURO ‘96 quarter-finals, also at Wembley; their only other EURO finals win outside the group stage prior to this tournament was a 2-0 defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1968 third-place play-off.
- England then enjoyed their biggest EURO final tournament victory in the quarter-finals, goals from Kane (2), Harry Maguire and Henderson securing a 4-0 victory against Ukraine at the Olimpico in Rome, before edging past Denmark 2-1 in extra time back at Wembley in the last four, Kane scoring the winner on the rebound after his penalty had been saved.
- Kane finished as the overall top scorer in the qualifying group stage with 12 goals, including at least one in every game, and also provided five assists. The goal against Germany was his first in a EURO finals; he has now scored in England’s last three matches.
- Sterling was involved in 15 of England’s 37 qualifying goals, scoring eight himself with seven assists, and also got the winners against Croatia and the Czech Republic before finding the net again against Germany.
Shots attempted: ITALY vs ENGLAND
On target: 30-25
Off target: 50-25
Goals scored: 12-10
Italy’s path to final:
June 11, Rome: Turkey 0 Italy 3 (Merih Demiral 53-og, Immobile 66, Insigne 79)
June 16, Rome: Italy 3 (Locatelli 26, 52, Immobile 89) Switzerland 0
June 20, Rome: Italy 1 (Pessina 39) Wales 0
June 26, London: Italy 2 (Chiesa 95, Pessina 105) Austria 1 (Kalajdzic 114) after extra time
July 2, Munich: Belgium 1 (Lukaku 45+2) Italy 2 (Barella 31, Insigne 44)
July 6, London: Italy 1 (Chiesa 60) Spain 1 (Morata 80) after extra time - Italy won 4-2 on penalties
England’s path to final:
June 13, London: England 1 (Sterling 57) Croatia 0
June 18, London: England 0 Scotland 0
June 22, London: Czech Republic 0 England 1 (Sterling 12)
June 29, London: England 2 (Sterling 75, Kane 86) Germany 0
July 3, Rome: Ukraine 0 England 4 (Kane 4, 50, Maguire 46, Henderson 63)
July 7, London: England 2 (Kjaer 39-og, Kane 104) Denmark 1 (Damsgaard 30) after extra time
As most major football matches are, the Euro 2020 final, is likely to be a close, low-scoring match decided by fine margins. So which little battle in the park will prove decisive?
Harry Kane v Giorgio Chiellini
– Neither Kane nor Chiellini have enjoyed smooth rides through the tournament, but both will be crucial to their side’s hopes of winning the trophy.
England captain Kane was the top scorer in qualifying, but surprisingly looked out of sorts as he failed to score in the group stage.
But the Tottenham striker, who won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup, has since bounced back with four goals in three knockout matches to lead England into their first major tournament final for 55 years.
Veteran centre-back Chiellini hobbled off in the first half of Italy’s second Group A game against Switzerland and did not return until the quarter-final victory over Belgium.
But the Azzurri skipper, alongside fellow Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, has played a big part in helping Italy withstand onslaughts from both Belgium and Spain in the semi-finals.
I said before the [Denmark] game that there’s a lot of questions about whether we’d learn from past experiences, from 2018. I said I feel like this squad have. We’re in a better place mentally, dealing with those types of games. But it’s about performing on the pitch and we definitely showed that. It was the first time we went behind in the tournament, the first goal we’d conceded. There was no panic. There was no disorganisation. We just stuck to the process; we knew what we were capable of.
I have always liked [Harry Kane] a lot. I still remember one of his first matches with England, when we played against them in Turin [on Kane’s full England debut, a 1-1 draw in 2015]. Even then he made a huge impression on me. I was lucky enough to play against him [against] Tottenham. He knows how to play deep and how to play a defence-splitting pass for a team-mate. He scores with his head and from long and close range. England are clearly not just Kane because they have amazing players on both wings and their substitutes could all be in the starting XI of a team that wins this competition.— via Uefa Euro 2020 official website
Raheem Sterling v Giovanni Di Lorenzo
– Manchester City winger Sterling has been the driving force behind England’s run, scoring winners against both Croatia and the Czech Republic in the group stage before netting the opening goal in the 2-0 last-16 victory over Germany.
He also ran a tired Denmark ragged in the semi-finals, having set up Kane’s opener against Ukraine in the quarters, and won the match-winning spot-kick.
Di Lorenzo will likely be the man tasked with stopping Sterling on Sunday.
The Napoli right-back has enjoyed a solid Euro 2020, but struggled at times against the pace of Jeremy Doku against Belgium, conceding a penalty for a needless foul on the teenager.
Kalvin Phillips v Jorginho
– Jorginho has been the heartbeat of the Italy midfield and one of the reasons behind a tactical shift which has seen Roberto Mancini’s men enjoy more possession than previous Italian teams.
The Champions League winner was not as dominant in the semi-final against Spain, though, with Barcelona’s teenage sensation Pedri shining in midfield.
Only Chelsea star Jorginho and Pedri have covered more ground in the tournament than Phillips, coached by the famously demanding Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds.
England will be hoping Phillips can put his energy to good use and nullify the influence of Jorginho, as he did to Luka Modric for long spells of their opening match against Croatia.
Luke Shaw v Federico Chiesa
– Two of the tournament’s star players will go head-to-head on Italy’s right wing.
Juventus youngster Chiesa has tormented defences with his pace and skill, scoring brilliant goals against Austria and Spain.
Left-back Luke Shaw will be the man tasked with stopping him, but the Manchester United defender has been an attacking threat too, making three assists.
Both teams will be hoping that their man in this duel can keep the other occupied defensively, rather than being left free to run into space.
Harry Maguire v Ciro Immobile
– Italy’s front man Immobile has not fired on all cylinders so far at Euro 2020, but has still netted twice and has a brilliant goalscoring record for Lazio.
But he will have to be at his best to cause Maguire problems, with the England centre-back having impressed in every match since coming back from injury for the final group game.
Immobile may also be tasked with pressing Maguire to prevent him from playing the forward passes that have often launched England attacks since he returned to the team.
(With Uefa and AFP inputs)