Here’s our in-depth, tactical breakdown of the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England.
England and Italy will do battle at 8 pm on Sunday and both teams just 90 minutes away from writing their names in the history books.
To examine who has the best chance of winning, we have broken the game down into five different sections: Defending, the midfield battle, creating chances, organisation and mentality.
Neither Italy nor England can be faulted with regards to their defending. England have conceded just one goal all tournament, and it was a stunning free-kick from Mikkel Damsgaard, while Italy have conceded three in their past three games.
Both teams are strong defensively. Italy’s system relies somewhat on having two colossi at the back – Giorgino Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. England protects their centre-halves by sitting two capable defensive midfielders in front of them.
Neither team is going to pick the other apart in this game, but don’t be surprised to see England try to cause Italy problems when Harry Kane drops deep and attempts to pull the Italian centre-backs out of position. This could result in Mason Mount or Raheem Sterling making late runs into the box, and there aren’t many players, let alone strikers, who can deliver a final pass into the box as Kane can.
The midfield battle.
There is only one winner here. Italy’s midfield of Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti are more technical, experienced and tactically astute than the energetic, hard-working England pair of Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice. As such, Mason Mount will be required to drop in and stick close to Jorginho to prevent him from getting Italy playing,
Italy’s midfield will keep the ball better than England and be more effective in possession. Roberto Mancini will probably see this as his team’s most likely avenue of winning the game – by getting past England’s two defensive midfielders and trying to play the ball into the attacking players.
That’s not to say Italy will have more possession overall, but when they get the ball in the middle of the park, England could be in trouble.
Both sides go about creating chances in a similar fashion (they really don’t). The fullbacks play a crucial part in joining the attacks, and the wide forward players are left with a lot responsibility with regards to getting shots at goal away.
But Italy have more ways of hurting teams than England. Italy’s seven scorers at the tournament are spread all across the pitch (and bench), and this has been the case all tournament. Meanwhile, England have been guilty of looking a little bit too one-dimensional at times.
Sterling remains England’s most dangerous goal threat. This is largely due to Kane’s tendency to drop into midfield and play the ball through the lines, which has worked excellently so far. Mancini will surely be aware of this and have measures put in place to counteract the threat, but when Kane is at his best, there is nothing any defender in the world can do.
While Southgate’s actual tactics are certainly not the most progressive, his organisation cannot be faulted. England’s entire game plan relies on nobody going rogue or taking an unnecessary risk. Everyone does their own job first, and then any sort of individuality or flair comes into the equation.
It’s a large part of the reason why Mason Mount is preferred over Jack Grealish by Southgate. He can be trusted not to do anything too crazy, while Grealish’s strengths lie in him getting the ball and trying to make something happen with a piece of brilliance.
But if Italy do beat England on Sunday, many might question whether Southgate made the right decision by leaving so many talented attack-minded players on the bench, in order to fit Rice and Phillips into the team.
However, if England win 1-0 with a scrappy Harry Maguire header from a corner, nobody in the country will care.
England feel different from tournaments gone by, and Southgate deserves praise for that. While some within the British media have exploded with giddiness, and began to carve the nation’s name on the trophy, the squad itself feels quite level-headed. Harry Maguire, for all his faults, seems like a leader on the pitch, as does Jordan Henderson on the bench.
However, nobody does cool like the Italians. All you need to do is just look at Chiellini rag-dolling Jordi Alba in the leadup to the penalty shootout against Spain on Tuesday and you’ll know all you need to about that side’s mentality.
— Robert Redmond (@RobRedmond10) July 6, 2021
The Italy defender knew that shootout was won before any penalties were taken, and it seemed his teammates did too. Will England’s tough exterior be shown up by genuine fearlessness on Sunday? Time will tell.