The stage is set. England’s longer-than-expected 55-year wait for a place in the final of a major international tournament ended last night as they beat surprise semi-finalists Denmark 2-1 after extra time to book their place in Euro 2020’s showpiece at Wembley Stadium on Sunday night (July 11th).
It is serial finalists Italy, who will feature in their third European Championships finale since the beginning of the 2000s, who await Gareth Southgate’s men, and there is very little to separate the two sides in the Italy v England odds — where the Three Lions are the slight favourites at 13/8, marginally ahead of Roberto Mancini’s men (15/8).
The betting market is a fair reflection of just how tight this match is expected to be on Sunday night. So, with the outcome incredibly difficult to call, let’s take a look at some of the key battles on the pitch. After all, these individual scraps are where the game could be won or lost!
Harry Kane vs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci
Italy’s aging centre-back partnership, Giorgio Chiellini (36) and Leonardo Bonucci (34) are going to have their work cut out against Harry Kane at Wembley on Sunday. England’s talisman looked sluggish and off the pace in the group stages, where he failed to find the back of the net. However, he’s sprung into life in the knockout rounds, scoring four goals in his last three games, and stopping him on Sunday will not be easy. Luckily for Italy, Bonucci and Chiellini are very experienced centre-backs, and there’s no doubt they’ll already be planning a way to keep Kane schtum, which will certainly involve roughing him up once or twice.
Mason Mount vs Jorginho
With both Mason Mount and Jorginho plying their trade for Chelsea, this midfield battle has a little bit of added spice. However, there’s no doubt these two will put their friendship aside the minute they step foot on Wembley’s hallowed turf. Jorginho has had a great tournament with Italy, forming a solid partnership with Marco Verratti and Nicolò Barella in the middle of the park, whilst acting as a first line of defence for the Azzurri. His performances have made him a Player of the Tournament contender, and if he can keep Mount’s creativity at bay, the EUROs winner odds will surely begin to swing in Italy’s favour.
Mount was forced to isolate earlier in the tournament after contact with Billy Gilmour, who tested positive for covid, but he was back in the starting fold for the Ukraine game, assisting Jordan Henderson’s first international goal, and he looked just as dangerous going forward against Denmark. Jorginho could look to leave his mark on Mount early, stamping his authority in this battle.
Federico Chiesa vs Luke Shaw
Both of these players have had fantastic tournaments thus far. But, whilst Luke Shaw has been exceptional going forward, even turning into the surprise supplier of goals, Federico Chiesa will perhaps provide his first real test defensively. The 23-year-old Juventus winger has been a handful for defenders and has scored crucial goals against Austria in the round of 16 and Spain in the semi-finals. Posing such a threat, Shaw might not be able to get as far up the pitch as he has in previous games, and that could have a knock-on effect on England’s chance creation. The Manchester United defender will need to be switched on for the full 90 minutes, that’s for sure!