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Italy vs England: 5 key battles | Euro 2020 final

England and Italy are one game away from winning Euro 2020
England and Italy are one game away from winning Euro 2020
Paul Merson
EXPERT COLUMNIST

England are in the UEFA Euro 2020 final and it's been an absolutely amazing journey for Gareth Southgate and co. Over the years, I've seen a few better England sides fail to live up to their hype, but the current crop have done incredibly well to get to where they are right now.

I know they still have to finish the job, but what England have achieved at Euro 2020 is definitely a success regardless of what happens in the final, in my opinion. These guys are going to be around for a while, so this isn't a one-off. They reached the semifinals of the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and are one game away from winning Euro 2020, which is a clear indication that this is a team for the long haul.

I don't see this as if it's going to be our best ever chance of winning a trophy. This is a young group of players who are learning from their mistakes, as we saw in the semifinal against Denmark. In the World Cup semi-final against Croatia, England lost to a late goal in extra time, but they dug deep this time around to book their place in the final of Euro 2020.

It'll be a hard game against Italy, but that's the case for both teams. England and Italy have been the two best sides at Euro 2020 and are yet to lose a game in the competition, so it's obvious that these two sides are hard to beat.

I know it's a final and anything can happen, but I fancy England to record a 3-2 victory in extra time and win Euro 2020 over Italy. It's either coming home or going to Rome - this game has all the makings of a cracking contest.

That said, here are five key battles I've picked ahead of the game, as two fantastic sides prepare to go head to head to be crowned kings of the continent at the Wembley Stadium.


#5 Raheem Sterling vs Giovanni di Lorenzo

England v Denmark - UEFA Euro 2020: Semi-final
England v Denmark - UEFA Euro 2020: Semi-final

This is the biggest game of Giovanni di Lorenzo's career. He was outstanding in the Euro 2020 semi-final against Spain and will be tasked with keeping Raheem Sterling at bay against England. Di Lorenzo has been resolute at the back for Italy, but he will have to be at his brilliant best to stifle Sterling, who, in my opinion, has been the Player of the Tournament so far.

Sterling has scored goals for England, but what stands out about him is his defensive work rate and willingness to run without the ball. If Di Lorenzo can stop him in his tracks and prevent him from growing into the game in the opening exchanges, it will go a long way in determining who wins the Euro 2020 final.

Italy have been incredibly solid at the back and went over 10 games without conceding a goal before letting one in against Austria in extra time, but that goes to show the kind of personnel they have in front of the goalkeeper. Leonardo Spinazzola understandably grabbed all the headlines for his performances, but Di Lorenzo has been a reliable presence at the back for Italy and has defended incredibly well, especially in the knockout stages.

He might get the better of Sterling at times and think he's got him in his pocket, but the Englishman has shown that he can immediately be a danger in the final third moments later. Against Denmark, he missed a golden opportunity to score, but he was the one who was busting his guts to win England a penalty late in the game.

This will be an intriguing battle, so Di Lorenzo will have to be alert throughout the game to keep Sterling quiet.


#4 Harry Kane vs Giorgio Chiellini

England v Denmark - UEFA Euro 2020: Semi-final
England v Denmark - UEFA Euro 2020: Semi-final

We've seen over the years that Harry Kane likes to drop off and attempt to drag central defenders out of position. Giorgio Chiellini will have to be wary of this aspect of his gameplay, as he doesn't want to land up in such a position at this stage of his career. Don't get me wrong, he's a fantastic defender and is one of the greats of the game, but he's better when the game happens in front of him.

In the Euro 2020 semifinal against Spain, Chiellini was all over the place after Alvaro Morata came on, as the substitute scored a clever goal to restore parity on the night. He looked lively after coming on and caused the Italian backline a handful of problems despite ending up on the losing side.

When England and Italy lock horns at the Wembley Stadium, I think Kane will attempt to play against Chiellini over Leonardo Bonucci. He's just one goal away from adding yet another Golden Boot to his cabinet and will look to inspire his side to victory by getting his name on the scoresheet again. Kane likes to drop deep and get involved in the build-up, so it's a big test even for someone as vastly experienced as Chiellini to keep him at bay.


Also Read: Paul Merson column - 5 surprise contenders for the Player of the Tournament award at Euro 2020

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Edited by Vishal Subramanian
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