Soccer

Euro 2020 final Italy vs. England lineup questions: Azzurri midfield battle against Three Lions wide strength

The UEFA Euro 2020 final is here, and Italy will do battle with England for the Henri Delaunay trophy at Wembley Stadium later this Sunday. The Azzurri have won it once and been beaten finalists twice while this is a first-ever final appearance for the English.

Italy have seen off Austria, Belgium and Spain since topping Group A and England have overcome Germany, Ukraine and Denmark to break new ground on the international stage.

The Italians were watertight in the group stage but have conceded once in every game in the knockout phase while the only goal the Three Lions have shipped was Mikkel Damsgaard’s semifinal stunner.

It promises to be an absorbing encounter in London and there is plenty of star talent on both sides with the likes of Jorginho, Raheem Sterling, Marco Verratti and Harry Kane just a few of the biggest names.

However, in order for either side to emerge victorious, there are certain lineup questions that both must answer. Whether it’s Italy’s midfield, or England’s wins, we take a look at key tactical areas where the match could be won — or lost.

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Italy: Dominate midfield without Spinazzola

Mancini’s men suffered a severe blow when they overcame Belgium as they lost Leonardo Spinazzola to a ruptured left achilles tendon, and his absence led to a struggle against Spain.

Although the Azzurri ultimately emerged victorious, Sergio Busquets dictated the tempo of the game in midfield and Italy were unable to replicate their earlier performances without their standout performer.

Against a likely English midfield pairing of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips, Jorginho, Verratti and Nicolo Barella should be able to establish a foothold for the Italians.

If that trio can succeed there, then Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne should see more of the ball and will get chance to threaten the England defense that has so far stood firm.

In something of an Olivier Giroud 2018 FIFA World Cup role, Ciro Immobile’s physicality will pose Harry Maguire and John Stones a challenge and Mancini’s hope will be that Chiesa or Insigne can find a way past Luke Shaw or Kyle Walker on either side of the back line.

It would be ludicrous for Italy to try to adopt a defensive style with an ageing central defensive pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini with Emerson and Giovanni Di Lorenzo giving the rearguard a bit of a makeshift vibe now that Spinazzola is out.

Win the battle for midfield dominance and the Azzurri will be able to put England at a position of disadvantage which is not something we have seen often this summer.

England: Keep it tight on the flanks

To expect Rice and Phillips to dominate the midfield the way that Jorginho, Verratti and Barella are capable of doing over 90 minutes would be a tall order indeed with the West Ham United and Leeds United duo more likely to be tasked with disrupting their Italian counterparts.

If they are able to do that, England’s strength out wide will come into play with Sterling and Shaw combining particularly well on the left for the majority of the tournament and Walker rolling back the years regardless of who is deployed in front of him.

The chances are that Italy will not be totally starved of the ball and when they manage to get Chiesa and Insigne into the game is when the Three Lions must be totally switched on.

Shaw has excelled going forward this summer, but Southgate’s men equally have not come up against many sides as well equipped out wide as the Azzurri going forward and Walker remains a veteran of this squad despite his evergreen form.

Chiesa, in particular, has impressed at Euro 2020 with goals against Austria and Spain in the knockout phase while Insigne has netted against Turkey and Belgium, and both need to be occupied at all times if England are to avoid them inflicting any pain.

Prediction: Italy 1-1 England AET (Italy win on penalties)

I went for this one to go the distance and for that to happen, both sides will need to address discussed. Italy have the firepower to breach the English defense for just the second time all tournament while England are more than capable of scoring against a vulnerable Italian back line. The Azzurri have already gone to extra time twice and penalties once so will be well prepared if it does go beyond 90 minutes while the Three Lions also went 120 with Denmark in their semifinal before making their strength in depth over the Scandinavians tell.



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