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Sunday, August 01, 2021

Euro 2020 final: How England and Italy match up tactically

Pace, Italy’s left-sided problem, midfield tussle and Kane would be the talking points on Sunday.

Written by Sandip G |
Updated: July 11, 2021 9:29:58 am
England manager Gareth Southgate and Italy manager Roberto Mancini (File Photo)

Pace: Both Italy and England have players capable of ratcheting up nerve-shredding pace. Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling would pose questions to the aged but still imposing Giorgio Chillieni and Leandro Bonucci; just as Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne could rattle Harry Maguire and John Stone, who are vulnerable to pacy attackers, especially at the start of the game. Belgium’s Jeremy Docku did give Italy’s right-back Giovanni di Lorenzo some anxious moments apart from the penalty he forced (soft though it was). As impregnable as the Juventus pair has been, pure pace and quick movements (like Spain’s false nine Dani Olmo) have troubled them.

England, on the other hand, neutered Germany’s pace on the wings in clinical fashion. However, they had then employed a three-man defence, a ploy they had since eschewed. It’s unlikely that they would resort to the strategy, as it would mean one attacker fewer against Italy’s dynamic 4-3-3. The Insigne-Kyle Walker tussle too would be decisive, as Walker has a tendency to drift upfront, giving thus space for Insigne to launch a snappy counter. Right-sided defender John Stones too would be wary of Insigne. A trickster he is, Insigne could drag him into unnecessary fouls. So far, Stones’ disciplinary sheet has been exceptional, but he has a history of picking unnecessary fouls.

Left-sided problem: Italy have depth all around the field— even for Chillieni and Bonucci — but for the left-back spot vacated by the unfortunate Leonardo Spinazzola. His replacement against Spain, Emerson Palmieri was rusty as well as sloppy, conceding the ball even when defending. He was easily outpaced by the Spaniards who would keep interchanging flanks. He was substituted later in the match and di Lorenzo switched to the left. On the wrong flank, he didn’t exude confidence either.

If the left side is Italy’s headache, it is England’s strength. Luke Shaw has been sensational all year through, both when defending and attacking, gulping assists and even scoring the odd goal, while Sterling has been typically quick (though could concede the ball without much of a fight) and creative. Disrupting the link-up play could be pivotal for Italy’s march, for which Marco Verratti and Jorginho would keep an extra eye on.

Midfield tussle: Jorginho and Declan Rice; Verratti and Kalvin Phillips. The tussle for midfield supremacy would be a stirring contest. The Italian duo is trickier and craftier, besides with a better passing range and immense experience. But the English pair have been solid and urgent this Euros, good enough to consign the experienced Jordan Henderson on the bench. However, against the muscle of Leon Goretzka, they did have their iffy moments. Italy’s midfield is both muscle and sophisticated, and to neuter them, England would need a hand from Mason Mount too. Given his vast experience and leadership skills, Gareth Southgate could be tempted to give Henderson a starting role too.

Kane’s role: Kane would drop back, look to drag a defender into him and complement, through quick passing, the speedy run of Sterling and Saka. Only that Chiellini and Bonucci are not as naive as their Danish counterparts. They would comfortably sit back and draw Kane into them than the other way around, thus snuffing out the wingmen. The England striker, thus, would be tempted to play in the traditional number 9 role, which the Italians are adept at dealing with. Romelu Lukaku will readily vouch. False 9s tend to torment the Italians but more deploying Kane in that role would be counter-intuitive. Nonetheless, Kane’s bouts with Italy’s center-backs would make for a fascinating watch.

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