By STEVE DOUGLAS AP Sports Writer
LONDON – They are billed as the best team in the tournament against, in fact, the host nation.
The European Championship final between Italy and England at Wembley Stadium on Sunday has all the makings of a tight and tense title match.
Here’s where the game could be won and lost:
The midfielder is the department where Italy unquestionably has the advantage in terms of quality and experience.
Marco Verratti is one of the few truly world-class midfielders at the tournament, Jorginho is a new Champions League winner and leads the game in front of the defense, while Nicolo Barella – at 24, the youngest of the trio – was a revelation after a winning season at Inter Milan.
As the hard-working, midfield English duo of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips give the team a solid foundation, they should be outmatched.
“The games against Spain (in the semi-finals) and England will be very different,” said Verratti. “The midfielder is a key section. Maybe you can make a difference and you have to dictate the pace of the game. ”
Expect England attacking midfielder Mason Mount to play a little deeper to help Rice and Phillips, or even potentially a system change.
It is probably England’s greatest force. Get this: Chelsea’s Champions League-winning team full-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell played a game between them at Euro 2020.
The two players England coach Gareth Southgate was able to sign at the start of extra time against Denmark in the semi-finals were Jordan Henderson, captain of Liverpool’s Champions League and Premier League winners, and widely regarded Phil Foden. like the future English football star. Among the unused replacements were Manchester United strikers Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, a player who has just signed for $ 100million from Borussia Dortmund.
England probably had the most offensive depth of any team in the tournament with France, which could be crucial if the final goes into overtime.
The Italian squad are not so packed with top names, especially up front, but have midfielder Manuel Locatelli – one of the best players in the group stage – and a few reliable defenders in reserve .
CALLS FROM COACHES
One is a Premier League-winning manager with experience training in three other countries and a number of top European clubs. The other’s only stint in running the club lasted three years and saw him relegated.
Euro 2020 shows, however, that Southgate’s capabilities should not necessarily be seen as inferior to Roberto Mancini’s – internationally at any rate.
Southgate took a defined approach to this tournament, modeled after the pragmatic way France won the World Cup in 2018, where system and structure took precedence over the temptation to bow to an individual player, which whatever his profile or his talent.
Almost every call Southgate made turned out to be the correct one. When it comes to the biggest game of his coaching career, can he still make the right choice? There is less doubt about Mancini, the Italian king of cool on the sidelines.
The semi-finals may have highlighted a few areas to tap into within two teams that contained few obvious weaknesses.
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford entered the tournament as perhaps the team’s biggest concern, but he was virtually error-free until a ragged performance against Denmark where his kicks were poor and his composure often questioned.
As for Italy, England will likely have noticed that Spain frequently moved closer to Italy’s left-back Emerson Palmieri, who replaced injured starter Leonardo Spinazzola.
Emerson, who has only appeared fleetingly for Chelsea this season, is a naturally attacking full-back and could leave holes behind, especially if Italy loses the ball and England can break quickly.
These are the two best defenses of Euro 2020.
England conceded a goal – and it came from the tournament’s only successful converted direct free kick. With Southgate often preferring two defensive midfielders seated in front of their four full-backs, England’s opponents have little room to operate.
Italy’s defensive robustness dates back decades and remains a pride of the national team. In all but one of Italy’s 38 appearances since Mancini took the helm in May 2018, the team have conceded zero or one goal.
There have been 23 clean sheets in that span, with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini at the heart of the defense. They are so close that they go on vacation together after the tournament.
“They’ve got these two warriors in the back who’ve seen it all before,” Southgate said.
The possibility of a 0-0 draw should not be ruled out.