Italy vs England: Goal-fest unlikely as best two teams of Euro 2020 meet in final

Euro 2020 appears to have got a final worthy of the tournament, but will that make for tight encounter at Wembley?

When: Sunday, July 11, 8pm BST

Where: Wembley

How to watch: BBC/ITV

Best bets

Time of first goal between 71 and 80 minutes at 12/1

Italy to win 1-0 at 6/1

Harry Maguire to score anytime at 11/1

Whatever you may think about the penalty awarded to England in the semi-final against Denmark, there can be little doubt that the competition's best two teams will contest the final.

In that sense, on paper it looks like a very worthy final indeed. The reality may be a little different.

Italy and England have the best two goalkeepers in the tournament playing behind the best two defences. That doesn't scream 'thriller'.

On the other hand, Raheem Sterling and Federico Chiesa are perhaps the most impressive wide players of Euro 2020, and Harry Kane and Ciro Immobile are rarely short of goals.

Euro 2020 form

England

England 1-0 Croatia

England 0-0 Scotland

Czech Republic 0-1 England

England 2-0 Germany

England 4-0 Ukraine

England 2-1 Denmark (AET)

There were probably some lingering doubts before the Denmark game about whether or not this was truly a 'new' England, but they have surely all disappeared now.

A thumping quarter-final win over Ukraine was already out of character from a historical point of view, and coming through a tough semi-final in which they grew as the game went one, not faded, should tell you that things are different now.

So often in the past, England have played the plucky, heroic underdogs who started well, left everything on the pitch, but faded and fell short against top quality, authoritative opposition.

This time, though, England were the top quality, authoritative opposition, and that's a much nicer place to be.

Italy

Turkey 0-3 Italy

Italy 3-0 Switzerland

Italy 1-0 Wales

Italy 2-1 Austria (AET)

Belgium 1-2 Italy

Italy 1-1 Spain (AET, Italy won 4-2 on penalties)

Italy have blown a little hot and cold during the tournament, but that hasn't stopped them from relentlessly winning.

No one can say they have been fortuitous with their opposition either, with both Belgium and Spain having been seen off in the knockout stages.

If we are honest, the attacking, free-flowing Italy from the group stage appears to have been left there, with Roberto Mancini reverting to the ruthless, safety-first approach you traditionally associate with Gli Azzurri.

You can't criticise them for that, though. It has worked and worked very well.

Do England have home 'advantage'?

It is easy to say that the passionate and vocal Wembley crowd will help England, but history suggests otherwise.

After all, it didn't help France in the final of Euro 2016. It didn't help Portugal in the final of Euro 2004.

In fact, no host country, which England essentially are now, has won the European Championship for 37 years.

The last time was in 1984 when France beat Spain 2-0 at the Parc des Princes.

In the 24 years prior to that it had only been done twice, too - in Spain in 1964 and Italy in 1968.

So, technically host countries have won more European Championship finals than they have lost. However, in terms of the modern game, it is completely unheard of.

Can England take the final step?

Although it's a new Italy team, we already know that winning major international tournaments are part of the country's soccer DNA. We can't say the same about England.

In fairness to the often-criticised FA, England's ascent to a major final has been a long time coming. Their game against Denmark was the fourth semi-final in a row for England between their men's and women's teams. Clearly something is working.

England definitely have the quality to win the match. There is no question about that. Quality has never been England's problem, though.

It's now all about mental strength and character, and being able to summon it when it is needed most.

In terms of a tactical plan, do not expect England to deviate from what has got them this far.

Italy play with a back four so it is unlikely Gareth Southgate will switch to three centre-backs like he did against Germany.

The Three Lions will make it their primary objective to protect their back four and back themselves to finish the match the stronger side, so late goals may well be something to watch out for again.

England squad

Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone, Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale

Defenders: Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Ben White

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice

Forwards: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling

Is Italy's great strength also their weakness?

Italy have been a very interesting side to watch at Euro 2020 because, perhaps for the first time ever, we have seen an Italy team who are willing to back themselves offensively.

Italian sides of the past, even the great ones, have been strictly a defence-first kind of outfit. They know that's their strength and they know that, more often than not, they only need one goal to win a game because of it.

Roberto Mancini appears to have instilled a much more attacking mindset into the current squad. Let's be clear: Italy have never been short of brilliant attacking players - it's just those players have rarely been let off the leash.

However, that doesn't mean they have abandoned their defensive ideals altogether, and they have a pair of grizzled old, yet brilliant, custodians in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

The Juventus duo are the best central defensive partnership in the world, but they do come with an Achilles heel.

That might be even more noticeable without the brilliant Leonardo Spinazzola to cover from full-back. He suffered a ruptured Achilles in their quarter-final win over Belgium and Italy really appeared to miss him against Spain.

At a combined age of 70, Chiellini and Bonucci are vulnerable to pace, and if Harry Kane can pull them out of their preferred deeper positions, the likes of Raheem Sterling and Buyako Saka could get a lot of joy attacking the space they vacate.

Spain are a possession-based team, though, and that suits the Italy defence as the game gets played in front of them. England, on the other hand, have players to attack the space behind them.

Italy squad

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alex Meret, Salvatore Sirigu

Defenders: Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Emerson, Alessandro Florenzi, Leonardo Spinazzola, Rafael Toloi

Midfielders: Nicolo Barella, Bryan Cristante, Jorginho, Manuel Locatelli, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Stefano Sensi, Marco Verratti

Forwards: Andrea Belotti, Domenico Berardi, Federico Bernardeschi, Federico Chiesa, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Giacomo Raspadori

International head-to-head

Italy wins: 11

Draws: 8

England wins: 8

Most recent match-up

England 1-1 Italy (Friendly, 2018)

If you're looking to draw on history for some reassurance that the Euro 2020 final can be a goal-laden feast, you may want to skip this section.

In March 2018, Gareth Southgate led England in a friendly against Italy, who had failed to qualify for the World Cup.

What followed was not a classic, with Jamie Vardy's first-half goal cancelled out by Lorenzo Insigne's late penalty.

From an England point of view, there will be precious few survivors from that team who will line up against Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

John Stones and Kyle Walker started, as did Raheem Sterling and Kieran Trippier. Jordan Henderson and Marcus Rashford were used from the bench, with Jordan Pickford and Harry Maguire unused substitutes.

What the experts say

Jamie Carragher: "I think it will be a very tight game. I think it may go to penalties and England come out victorious.

"We have done a lot of work on penalties, so let's not let that go to waste!

"I don't think there will be too many goals in the game. Italy are very strong defensively, so are England.

"I think it will be 1-1 and then go to penalties.

"I think it's the right final. I think they have been the two most impressive teams in this competition - and winner takes all on Sunday."

Gary Neville: "[England] have got to find a way to draw Chiellini and Bonucci out so that we can get Sterling in that space in and around them.

"He has got to be the key, because those two Italian defenders are absolutely brilliant.

"They will half fancy Kane in terms of the physicality element of it and Harry isn't the quickest. So Harry will have to be clever on Sunday.

"Sterling I'm sure, if he can just draw one or two of those defenders out, and get them out of their position by four or five yards... we saw the goal that Spain scored where Chiellini was drawn out by a one-two. I think Sterling will be absolutely key on Sunday."

Alan Shearer: "You've got to complement Mancini and his team. What a team of character he's got, 33 matches that's now unbeaten for Italy.

"The togetherness they have in that squad together with their ability, they're going to be very tough to beat in the final.

"This is going to be an incredibly tight game because they're superb opposition. They haven't lost for 33 games and whatever standard of football you're playing, that's impressive.

"We've watched them a few times live this tournament. They, like England, have a great togetherness and they've got pace on either side. They've got two giants of defenders in [Leonardo] Bonucci and [Giorgio] Chiellini.

"They are very, very experienced and despite their age they both played the extra time against Spain and Bonucci even went up and took a penalty, so they've got great experience in their team. We'll have to be very wary of that and it's such a tough one to call."

Goalscorer bets

There seems to be a golden rule for England in Euro 2020: If they are in need and Raheem Sterling doesn't step up, Harry Kane does.

The calibre of opposition has boosted the usual odds for them to score a little, though. Kane can be backed at around 3/1 to score the first goal, with Sterling about 7/1.

It's also worth noting that Kane needs two goals (or one goal and two assists) to take the Golden Boot award off Cristiano Ronaldo. That won't be easy against a stubborn Italian side, but it's not something you'd put past him either. He can be backed at around 10/1 to score a brace.

Tight games can also sometimes come down to set-pieces. Harry Maguire has been a consistent threat for England there, and at 18/1 to score the first goal he's tempting value.

Italy have spread the goals around during Euro 2020 and that is one of their greatest strengths.

Striker Ciro Immobile may not be able to get much change out of England's excellent defence, but Federico Chiesa has played two games at Wembley in the competition and has scored in them both. He is priced at around 17/2 to score the first goal and 17/4 anytime.

Jorginho at 12/1 first goalscorer and 7/1 anytime is a solid bet too given his reliability from the penalty spot.