And Then There Were Two: England Face Italy in 2020 Euro Final

The final of the 2020 Euro has arrived, and, a couple years ago, this result could not have seemed farther away.

These two teams have struggled in recent history. At the 2014 World Cup, England failed to make it out of the group stages. Italy were in the same group and also managed to be eliminated, as Uruguay and Costa Rica got the better of both teams. In the 2016 Euros, Italy exited in the Quarterfinals and England famously lost in the Round of 16 to Iceland. In the 2018 World Cup, England succeeded, finishing fourth, but Italy failed to qualify.

Now, though, both teams are back at the top where they belong. Italy now look to win their first major trophy since 2006, and England’s first since 1966.

Italy (P)1-1 Spain

A late goal from Alvaro Morata gave Spain a chance to advance to the finals after Federico Chiesa gave Italy the lead, but Italy were triumphant on penalty kicks.

After over 1000 minutes of not allowing any goals, Italy have now conceded one in every knockout stage match. Obviously the competition is going to get harder as teams advance, but it is somewhat worrying for Italy. England have been able to find goals from anywhere: corners, penalties, open play. Italy will need to regain their defensive solidity if they want to win. Italy are another team without a specific goalscorer: four players (including Chiesa) have scored multiple goals, but none have more than two. This will be both a blessing and a curse: England have no specific player to mark, as goals come from anywhere. However, late in a game, Italy won’t have an elite striker when they need to find goals.

Ultimately, a lack of goalscoring threats has been Spain’s problem the whole tournament. Even when Spain scored five goals in back-to-back games, it wasn’t convincing. They were helped significantly by own goals against Slovakia and required extra time to score five past Croatia (Slovakia was the only match that Spain won in 90 minutes). Spain possessed the ball once they had the lead, giving them a knack for conceding late goals. Of the six goals that Spain conceded, four of them were conceded within the final half hour. Spain have a great team with excellent young players like Pedri, but constant possession is not the way to win games.

England 2-1 Denmark

In a controversial affair, England beat Denmark at Wembley after a late rebound from a penalty kick was turned in by Harry Kane.

Let’s be clear: England were the better team. They constantly looked the better side, with more shots, passes, and possession. But the style with which they won left a lot to be desired. The penalty England earned was questionable at best, as Raheem Sterling has been known to hit the ground easily and did this time. In the build up to the penalty, there were two balls on the pitch, meaning that play should’ve been stopped long before the penalty. Then, when the penalty kick was taken, Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had a laser shone on him and his face whilst attempting to stop it. This could be part of the reason that Schmeichel gave up a goal on the rebound as he struggled for a grip on the ball once he saved it.

Again, England were the better team and have looked great this entire tournament. With that being said, the English team doesn’t necessarily deserve to advance under these circumstances. In any case, the final certainly should not be at Wembley, where the semifinal was held.

Denmark’s fairytale story has come to an end. After witnessing teammate Christian Eriksen suffer a cardiac arrest on the pitch against Finland, Denmark lost the first two group stage matches. The country and world rallied behind the Danes, who went on to win three straight on the way to the semifinal. Whilst Denmark didn’t repeat the feats of the 1992 team that won the tournament, this was arguably more impressive due to the surrounding circumstances.

Regardless of controversy surrounding any of the matches at this year’s Euros, the final will be an exciting, classic match. Italy and England have faced off 27 times, with Italy winning eleven and England winning eight, with eight draws. The last time these teams faced off competitively was in the 2014 World Cup group stages, where Italy grabbed their only win of the tournament in a 2-1 affair.

From Mario Balotelli’s header to Andrea Pirlo’s panenka, these matchups have had some truly memorable moments. However, despite all the matchups between the two, this will be only the fourth match at an international tournament between them. Italy have won all three so far.

Image Courtesy of Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro), CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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