‘It’s Coming Home’ or ‘It’s Coming to Rome?’ That is the question.
The Final between the Three Lions and the Azzurri is the coup de grâce, the chef's kiss ending to the 2020 Euros. Sure, you could say that a final featuring Denmark would have been a better story and you’re probably right. The small yet consistent footballing nation of nearly 6 million people riding the emotion of Christian Eriksen’s near death to a Euro Final would have been a storybook. And quite frankly, it was something everyone outside of England wanted to see. But one late, controversial penalty later and here we are, with England trying to capture their first major tournament trophy since 1966. They invented the game of soccer, after all, and despite their clout, the hardware-deprived nation hadn’t even appeared in the final of a major tournament since that 1966 summer. 55 years of waiting and heartbreak. Now they will run up against Italy, a team with whom they have plenty of history. A resurgent Italian side that missed the 2018 World Cup has let the disappointment of three years ago fuel their play at this year’s Euro. And England will meet them at their home, the footballing mecca of Wembley Stadium. So yes, Denmark’s story may have been better, but the stakes wouldn't have been as high. And that’s why this years Euro 2020 Final is a must watch on Sunday, July 11 at 3pm ET on ESPN. Here is how each team can win the Euro:
How Italy Can Win
After the national tragedy of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, the Azzurri went back to the drawing board. The last time they missed out on a World Cup was 1958, so it’s fair to say something had to change. They needed a proven manager to harness the trusty old Italian style and usher in a new, young and talented generation of players.
Enter Roberto Mancini and the results speak for themselves. A defense anchored by 34 and 36-year-old Italian legends Leonard Bonnucci and Giorgio Chiellini, and an offense that features 30 and 31-year-old Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile has meshed beautifully with the younger generation. Emerson (26), Federico Chiesa (23) and starlet Nicolò Barella (24) have given Italy something they always needed: attacking versatility. Italy have been so dangerous this Euro because they still have their defensive prowess but now, offensively, they have a multitude of ways to beat you. Their counters are faster and their build-up play is more precise with a cohesive midfield of Jorginho playing point guard, Veratti playing enforcer and Barella pulling strings. Italy showed that they can weather a storm of possession and quick passing in their match vs Spain. They might not have Gianluigi Buffon in goal but Gianluigi Donnarumma’s play this Euro has possibly earned him a PSG contract. Italy truly is a complete team that can play in different types of games. In a hostile environment, defense and discipline is key. That is an area Italy thrives in, and they don’t miss their chances when they get them.
How England Can Win
Before we get to the team itself, remember this match is being played in the legendary Wembley Stadium. Saying it’s going to be electric is an understatement. With their home crowd behind them England will be on the front foot. If they limit their mistakes, they should win this game. Name a position on the pitch. Any position. England has depth at all of them. This talented generation of English players has given Gareth Southgate a plethora of different options and ways to play. What they lack in experience they make up for in talent and depth.
Early in the tournament, England really didn’t impress. They puttered along through the group stage with a couple of 1-0 victories and a 0-0 draw against rivals Scotland. But then came a performance against Germany that raised some eyebrows. Teams have really struggled to build anything against the Three Lions. Leeds United Midfielder Kalvin Phillips has been a bulldog in the midfield while, a backline of John Stones, Harry Macguire, Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw have been nothing short of spectacular. England has conceded one goal this tournament. And that one goal was a absolute canon of a freekick from Denmark’s Mikkel Damsgaard. You combine that with the speedy and crafty Raheem Sterling, Arsenal’s star boy Bukayo Saka and marksman Harry Kane, how can you not be sniffing trophies?
The number one thing England has to do to win the Euro is not fall behind early. Sure, they battled back against Denmark, but Italy is Italy. Should the Azzurri grab an early lead, it will play into their signature style of sitting back and exploding on a counter attack. If England do fall behind, it’s not time to hit the panic button. They do have the firepower and depth to chase a game. Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden can all come on and give you plenty of offensive creativity. Should they avoid individual mistakes and strike first with offensive sparks from Saka and Sterling, they can then bring on Jordan Henderson and Kieran Trippier to kill off a game and raise their first trophy in 55 years. There’s that depth showing up again.
To watch the Euros Final on Sunday, July 11, at 3pm ET, sign up for Sling Orange with ESPN using the link below!