Exactly 364 days after the original date scheduled, the Euro 2020 final is ready to be played on Sunday 11th July, 2021.
It has been a long tournament which started a month ago with 24 teams, and only two remain; Italy and England.
What happened in the semi-finals?
The first semi-final was played out exactly as expected with Spain monopolising the ball, moving it around effortlessly while Italy looked to win the ball, and get down the other end as quick as possible. Unfortunately for the Azzurri, getting the ball down the field quickly was impossible without the ball. Spain were at their brilliant best for the entire first half, albeit without creating any chances bar one. The second half was a lot more even, and Italy were at their electric best for the goal they scored. From the ball leaving Gianluigi Donnarumma’s hand to it hitting the back of the net from Federico Chiesa’s foot was less than 10 seconds.
The rest of the game flew by with both Spain and Italy going all out to get the next goal of the game. Eventually, a brilliant bit of play put through Alvaro Morata who was able to score the equaliser. Spain were going to play extra time for the third game in a row!
Extra time was a dull affair, but the penalties were as exciting as ever. The two sides were the complete antithesis of one another. Italy knew their takers, and order, however, Spain coach Luis Enrique was trying to muster up a list of five players.
During the coin toss, Giorgio Chielini pretty much beat Jordi Alba up, but no one stopped him because he was doing it with a smile on his face. After misses from Locatelli, Olma and Morata, Chelsea’s Jorginho had the chance to win the tie, and it was never in doubt! In fact, if you watch carefully, you will see Jorginho glance left as he is about to make contact, which puts Unai Simon on his backside. Quality!
The England game was more one-sided. The Three Lions were dominant against a decent Denmark team who posed a threat going forward. The first goal of the game came from a magnificent free-kick from Mikkel Damsgaard. Yes, it was not in the corner, but the pace, dip and Pickford seeing it late all made it unstoppable. Just prior to the goal, Damsgaard had almost scored from a ball that fell to his feet.
England reacted very well to going behind with Sterling missing from point blank range. Shortly after, Sterling forced Simon Kjaer to put the ball into his own net for the 11th own goal of the tournament, beating the previous record of three in 2016.
The game turned into England vs Kasper Schmeichel. The big Dane saved shot after shot until a very dubious penalty was given to England. Nonetheless, it was given, and up stepped Harry Kane. Schmeichel saved again, but couldnt do anything about the rebound.
England are in the final! Well-deserved!
Results (My Predictions):
ITALY 1 Spain 1 PEN 4-2 ( Italy 3 Spain 1)
ENGLAND 2 Denmark 1 ET (England 1 Denmark 2 ET)
Italy vs England
What a final we have in store, with the two best teams of the tournament competing to become the next European Champion. This will be Italy’s fourth final, having won in 1968 (beat Yugoslavia in a replay), and finished runner-up in 2000 to France, and 2012 to Spain. The latter of those three finals was a humiliating 4-0 defeat to a Spanish side that was unbeatable at the time. Both Giorgio Chielini and Christian Bonucci played in that game and will be looking to make amends especially as this has the feeling of being Chielini’s last game for the Azzurri.
In contrast, this is England’s first ever Euro’s final which is a huge cause for celebration amongst English supporters. England have played one previous final at the 1966 World Cup, which they won, at Wembley, against European opposition. Unfortunately, that’s the only statistic that is in favour of England.
England and Italy have played twice at the Euros. On both occasions Italy knocked England out of the competition in 1980 and 2012 (remember Andrea Pirlo’s Panenka?). They have also played once at the World Cup with the Azzurri winning that, too. Further to that, there have been five finals in which the host nation took part in. The first three were won, but the last two – 2004 and 2016 – have ended in narrow defeats.
In spite of all of this, it is never that clear what can happen especially with one side having the more tiring route to the final. The Spanish game took a lot out of the Italians who had to chase a lot, whereas England were in control of everything against Denmark.
Where will the final be won and lost?
Emerson vs Kyle Walker
The loss of Leonardo Spinazzola is huge not just because of how talented the left back has been but the reduction in quality the replacement, Emerson, provides. Emerson is not great going forward, which puts a lot more pressure on Lorenzo Insigne. Defensively, he does provide some stability but not enough to make fans feel at ease. Then again England have their own concerns when it comes to the concentration of Kyle Walker. The England right back gets found out a lot but manages to recover thanks to his pace. Against Ukraine he allowed Yaremchuk to get through into dangerous positions on a couple of occasions. Similar chances, if presented to the Italians, will be taken.
This will make it very interesting to see which ‘S’ starts on the right wing for England. Will it be Saka, Sancho or Sterling? The latter managed to “win” a penalty in the semi-final from the right wing, so moving him over is a smart move. The Italian right back, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, is much better, so that would be a tougher challenge for Raheem Sterling. Moving Sterling over would allow for Sancho to play on his preferred left side, where he can be very useful.
Taking control of the midfield will be very important on Sunday. Italy has Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella, with the likes of Manuel Locatelli, Matteo Pessina and Bryan Cristante coming off the bench. They have shown that they can dominate matches, but also look very organised without the ball, too.
England aren’t too bad for options in the middle of the park either. Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice have been immense together, but they do both like to push forward at times. The issue is that in every one of England’s games, the midfield have lost the ball while in transition, allowing a free run at their defence. Germany, Ukraine and Denmark were unable to take advantage, but Italy will. They will need to be a little more wary of putting themselves under pressure.
In the end, both teams deserve the victory, but only one can be victorious. The first goal of the game will likely be very important in determining which team wins, as both sides are very good with a lead.
I think Italy will win, but I hope England do!
Whatever happens, it’s going to be a great game, with great teams, at the home of football!
Prediction: ITALY 3 England 1 – If Italy score first!