Italy vs England | Sunday 11th July 2020, 20:00 | BBC
After a delay of 12 months and following four weeks of intriguing international football, it’s time for the Euro 2020 final where without any shadow of doubt football is coming……to Wembley for a fascinating battle between Italy and England.
The Azzurri will be aiming to make it third time lucky and win the competition for the first time since 1968 following defeats in 2000 and more recently in a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of a peak Spain side in 2012.
Despite coming in to this clash on the back of an incredible 33 game unbeaten run Italy are 11/5 outsiders against an England side appearing in their first major final this century and looking to lift this trophy for the first time ever.
The Three Lions do of course have home advantage but in aiming to be the first nation to win a Euro final since 1984, will in no way under estimate a team that not only haven't been defeated since a 1-0 loss to Portugal in 2018 but have seen off both Belgium and Spain to claim their place in this final.
We should expect tight and cagey here, with Mikkel Damsgaard’s fantastic semi-final free kick the first time Jordan Pickford has been beaten this tournament at the sixth time of asking, a superb record and when added to Italy’s phenomenal recent defensive stats which until Romelu Lukaku’s quarter final penalty had seen them go 12 games without conceding a goal in 90 minutes, this is unlikely to be a goal fest.
Therefore, it is no surprise to see under 2.5 goals set out as short as 4/9 however I believe I have found an angle in to a game which promises limited goal mouth action.
Gareth Southgate has set his stall out to be defensively sound believing that is the foundations of a successful tournament side – and who can argue – with the likes of Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho to call from the bench in an attempt to win or rescue a game it’s more a case of grinding sides down than blasting them out of sight in the first half an hour.
We also saw Italy show respect to Spain in their semi-final and not display such a cavalier attitude as we had seen in earlier fixtures – especially in the absence of such a key player for them in the shape of the injured Leonardo Spinazzola.
England games have averaged just 16.17 shots this tournament with a high of 20 coming in the goalless draw with Scotland and although Italy have seen far more attempts at goal that has slowed in recent games and I am expecting similar in this huge fixture.
Bet 365 have set the line at 22.5 and I am prepared to take that on by playing under at odds of 1.80 – this is just for the 90 minutes so it is not impacted by the tie going in to extra time which is a strong possibility – Unibet for example include extra time shots so it is important to check that before placing your bet.
Although I am playing under shots – one player does appeal to me in the individual shot markets and is a player I profited on in the last round with wins at 7/2 and 33/1.
That player is Harry Maguire who warmed up with a header on target against Germany, before bagging a headed goal against Ukraine and followed that with two headers on target in the victory over Denmark.
Although the Italians have a renowned, vastly experienced and resolute defensive unit, the Danes were no mugs either with plenty of height to counteract the set piece threat of England, however one element that has been obvious is the fantastic delivery from both sides of the field with Luke Shaw in particular excelling.
Any free kicks given away in the final third or corners will see Maguire trot forward and aim to cause more havoc – he really does seem to have a magnet in that infamous forehead of his – I was very surprised to see identical odds of 7/2 with Paddy Power and Sky Bet (boost available to some customers) for another headed attempt on target and even bigger odds of 40/1 for two or more.
With the likes of Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka running with pace and trickery allied by Harry Kane’s ability to win free kicks from centre backs, I can’t see this Italian defence being able to survive the 90 minutes without conceding a few set pieces around their own 18-yard-box.
On that theme my final selection throws up a double combination at odds of 25/1.
As we have seen for both club and country Harry Kane likes to drop deep to link up play and in doing so leaves centre halves with a real conundrum – follow him or pick up the runs of the players flooding forward to fill the void he has left behind.
Messers Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, with a combined age of 70, would likely revel a straight up contest against one of Europe’s most respected number 9’s – however what they won’t be looking forward to is being attacked with pace or picking up the runs in behind of the aforementioned Saka and Sterling – equally, if not more so, with 70 minutes on the clock looking over to see livewires Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish or Phil Foden making their fresh legged entrances from the bench.
Neither centre back seemed totally at ease with Spain’s use of a false 9 in the last round and Bonucci was eventually carded – it could be more of the same here.
I feel with those extra 30 minutes in their legs at the end of a very long season and tournament England have the players to stretch them, although referee Bjorn Kuipers hasn’t been prolific with the cards in his three games at Euro 2020, showing 10 yellows and his overall international average sits just under four per game at 3.76, he could be left with no choice if Englands attack bring their A game to this showpiece occasion.
However, given the magnitude of the game I’m prepared to take a chance that both Chiellini and Bonucci pick up a caution with Bet 365 offering best price via their Bet Builder.
All that’s left for me to say – is I was wrong….when Spring became Summer, not to have believed England would come along to provide good times that never seemed so good after I’ve been inclined to never believe they would. I’m looking forward to the night and it not seem so lonely, when we fill Wembley up with not only two teams but thousands of fans. Sweet Final…..Da, da,daaa.
Enjoy the game!
Italy vs England – Under 22.5 Shots (4/5 Bet365)
Italy vs England – Harry Maguire to have 1 or more headed shots on target (7/2 Paddy Power)
Italy vs England – Harry Maguire to have 2 or more headed shots on target (40/1 Paddy Power)
Italy vs England – Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci to be carded (25/1 Bet365)