Italy vs England preview: Three Lions bid to make history in Wembley final

class=”styled__BannerImage-sc-1wadlxz-1 iLJqYu styles_articleMainImage__Lj_Qv”>Gareth Southgate will be looking to mastermind England’s first ever European Championship triumph

Gareth Southgate will be looking to mastermind England’s first ever European Championship triumph

Final: Italy vs England, 8pm kick-off (UK time, BBC1 and ITV)

England stand on the precipice of greatness and football might finally be coming home.

The Three Lions are into their first ever European Championship final and are just one win away from immortality.

But Italy, on a 33-game unbeaten run, are looking to spoil the party, as they bid to join an exclusive list of countries to have won the European Championship on more than one occasion.

Story so far

England started the tournament as one of the favourites, though they weren’t fully convincing in the group stages – registering 1-0 wins over Croatia and the Czech Republic either side of a 0-0 draw with Scotland to top Group D.

A mature performance in the round of 16 clash against Germany saw Gareth Southgate’s side grind out a 2-0 win before the shackles really came off in the 4-0 victory against Ukraine.

England conceded their first of the tournament against Denmark but showed their mental fortitude by coming from behind to claim a 2-1 win in extra-time.

Italy were viewed by many as dark horses heading into Euro 2020. Despite being on a 26-match unbeaten streak, the Azzurri lacked the star names of yesteryear.

But it wasn’t long until the continent woke up to quality in Roberto Mancini’s squad, after convincing wins over Turkey (3-0), Switzerland (3-0) and Wales (1-0) in Group A had neutrals taking note.

They then overcame Austria in the last 16 in extra-time (2-1) and knocked favourites Belgium out in the quarter-finals by the same scoreline, before a 4-2 penalty shootout triumph over Spain in the semi-final.

The false No19

Mason Mount could have a big part to play in tonight's Euro 2020 final
Mason Mount could have a big part to play in tonight's Euro 2020 final

We’ve all heard of a false nine in football, but it might be a case of the ‘false No19’ for England today.

Mason Mount is yet to have his moment at these Euros, though he could well be the Three Lions’ key man against Italy.

His movement and ability to find pockets of space when playing as the attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 will be invaluable if England are to break down Roberto Mancini’s outfit.

Pedri received all of the plaudits for his showing in the semi-final for Spain but it was Dani Olmo who ran the show. He was finding space in the final third and linking the midfield to the attack.

Mount can do that, just as he did for Chelsea last season – and, ironically, it’ll be his club team-mate Jorginho looking to stop him.

The adopted Italian

Jorginho is crucial to Italy's chances of dominating possession in the middle third of the pitch
Jorginho is crucial to Italy's chances of dominating possession in the middle third of the pitch

In England, Jorginho is still something of an enigma.

He regularly divides opinion, with fans and pundits still not 100% sure what he brings to the team.

For Italy, it is completely different. He is the main man for Mancini’s side – the pass master general who keeps things ticking over in the middle third.

The 29-year-old ranks sixth for passes into the final third (45), ninth for progressive passes (30) and joint-eighth for shot-creating actions (17) at Euro 2020 so far, as well as placing in the top three for pressures (112).

If Italy are to get a foothold in the game, he will be instrumental.

Midfield battle

England have tended to press opponents when just inside their own half at this summer's European Championship
England have tended to press opponents when just inside their own half at this summer's European Championship

All eyes will be on the midfield battle at Wembley today.

Marco Verratti, Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Manuel Locatelli have impressed for Italy at the Euros, each bringing a different skill set to that part of the pitch.

There is a perfect blend of creativity, physicality and energy, no matter which trio are selected by Mancini.

England, on the other hand, have started the majority of their games with a midfield two of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips.

Despite being outnumbered in that zone, they’ve managed to control games as a team.

As evidenced in the graphic above, England aggressively engage with opponents just inside their own half – that includes attackers dropping back and full-backs pushing on.

This is how they get by with just a two-man midfield.

Who to start in attack?

Southgate’s front three has two guaranteed starters in Sterling and Kane.

The other position is up for grabs.

Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho have started there, and the England manager also has Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford in his squad.

All have different strengths and weaknesses, and so far, he’s managed them superbly.

Italy struggled against the directness of Olmo in the semi-final, so the temptation might be to give Grealish another start.

However, Saka has impressed whenever he’s been in the starting line-up and has done little to warrant being dropped for the big occasion.

It’s a huge call for Southgate – get it right, though, and it could be what decides the match in England’s favour.

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EnglandItalyEuropean Championship