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PREVIEW: England eye first major trophy in 55 years as Italy look to stop the party

PREVIEW: England eye first major trophy in 55 years as Italy look to stop the party
July 10
15:34 2021

Is football “coming home” or going to Rome? The question will not be proffered an answer until near midnight on Sunday. The European Championship inches towards a dramatic ending. It’s been a Euro unlike any other in history. It is the first to be held in 11 countries across Europe. And also the first to have England in the final.

Since Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup trophy in that eternally controversial match in Wembley against Germany in 1966, the Three Lions have been absent from finals of major international competitions. The jinx stood until last Wednesday, when Harry Kane sent Denmark’s Kasper Schmeichel the wrong way, from the penalty spot, to book them a place Euro 2020 final.

They got here breezing past Ukraine, Czech Republic and Germany, scoring 10 goals and conceding just once. Gareth Southgate’s tinkering with the backline all through the competition has kept their defence almost impregnable even with Harry Maguire out for a couple of games.

The resurgence of Raheem Sterling, who was woeful towards the tail end of last season for Manchester City; the continued brilliance of Kane; the youthfulness and speed of Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish and Jordan Sancho have made England dangerous on the attack.

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However, in Italy, they will be facing a team rejuvenated by the national passion and tactical dexterity of Roberto Mancini.

Since the former Man City boss took over 2018, the Azzurri haven’t lost a game, creating an unbeaten record of 33 international matches.

Italy have shown they’ve moved past the limping side that couldn’t secure a ticket to the last World Cup.

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They’ve exerted themselves as one of the favourites from the group stage before beating Austria, Belgium and Spain en route to the final.

The midfield partnership of Marco Verrati and Jorginho has been phenomenal through the tournament, trampling every other team in that part of the pitch.

The experienced back two of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have been outstanding alongside Gianluigi Donnaruma, whose inspirational performance puts him in contention for the best goalkeeper of the competition.

Will the ageing Italian defence hold it together where it matters most when it faces the youthful exuberance of England attack and a full capacity Wembley Stadium? Or will the Three Lions make a mess of the occasion and continue their long search for a major international trophy?

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Is football “coming home” or going to Rome? A question that only time can answer.

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