On Sunday, there will be a new winner in the European championship of football when Italy faces the hosts England in Wembley on Sunday. Both the teams have been impressive in their performances in this edition of the Euros, en route to the final. In fact, it has been the Euro of Upsets where the established teams were knocked out of the competition by the lesser favored teams. In other words, it has been the tournament where the underdogs have punched above their weight.
Teams such as France, who are the current world champions & Portugal, the defending European champions were knocked out in the early stages of the knockout rounds.
Traditional giants such as Germany & the Netherlands are other teams who failed to deliver this time around due to being outplayed by the opposition. This was seen as the tournament where No-1 Ranked Belgium would break their duck of winning a major international trophy, but once again they came up short when it mattered the most.
Amongst the Contenders, Italy and England have been the standout teams of the tournaments. Both have had to endure major failures in the international scene in the recent past and were seen by many as the fallen giants. Sunday will be a chance to regain lost glory and pride for both nations as they compete in a major European final after a long time.
Perfect Blend of Youth & Experience has Benefitted both Nations.
- Italy and England headed into the tournaments with question marks over their credentials to challenge for major honors. England was amongst the pre-tournament favorites, but many expected them to crash out in the latter rounds of the tournament if they came up against Elite opposition. But this time around they have risen to the occasion and their players have delivered on the big stage.
- The spine of this English side is built around the mix of youth & experience. Experienced players such as Harry Kane, Kyle Walker & Raheem Sterling have been instrumental in their road to the finals. Adding to that the youthful exuberance and fearlessness of players such as Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Declan Rice, and others have been the perfect recipe for success so far. for England.
- Italy on the other hand looks like a team on a mission. Their failure to qualify for the 2018 world cup was unfathomable for football fans, as the 4 times world champion couldn't get past Sweden in the qualifying rounds to make it to the world cup. It was the first time in 60 years, that they had failed to qualify for the world cup.
- That setback spurred the national team on to one of the greatest unbeaten runs in football history. The team is unbeaten in 33 matches, last time tasting defeat at the hands of Portugal in a friendly in 2018. Similar to England, the team is filled with young players with speed, precision, and directness. Midfielders such as Lorenzo Insigne, Jorginho & Federico Chiesa have been the finds of the tournament, whereas the experienced duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have been the glue that has held the team together in defense and spirit.
Gareth Southgate and Roberto Mancini have restored belief in their teams.
- A major part of both Italy and England's success is owed to their managers. Gareth Southgate has been somewhat of a tactician since his appointment, as he has managed to get the best out of each player in his team. More so, he has instilled courage in this English side to perform on the big stage. Their run to the semi-finals of the 2018 world cup is a testament to this fact.
- As per my observation, this is a major difference between the golden generation of players England had, such as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and many others compared to the current crop of players. The golden generation of England was one of my favorites footballing teams but sadly due to the level of competition & managerial changes in the team, they weren't able to take that next step. It is a huge credit to Gareth Southgate that he has been able to create team unity amongst the players and has not let past failures affect them.
- Roberto Mancini like Southgate, a former player of the Italian national team took over the reins of Italy after the 2018 world cup. He had a lot of pressure on him to enable his side to play like the old successful Italian teams. But the players that he had at his disposal were relatively young and new to football & many of them were not recognized and established players, which made the task of revitalizing the Italian national team more difficult.
- The challenge didn't faze Mancini at all, as he turned this Italian team into one of the most versatile footballing teams we have ever seen in terms of style. The successful Italian teams of the past were very limited in terms of style of play, where the defense was the key component of the team. The current Italian side is very varied in its approach where they can transition from a direct to an all-out attacking style of play during a match.
- This led to the team going onto a remarkable run of 33 matches unbeaten en route to the final of the Euros. To be able to do that with the brilliant but inexperienced players in the current setup is a huge feat by Mancini which deserves respect even his team win or lose the final.
Defense has been the integral part of their success in the Euros.
The defense has been a major factor in both nation's success, this euro. For England, the pair of Harry Maguire and John Stones has. provided solidarity in defense. The tall and robust frames of both the defenders have helped England nullify the opposition attacking output.
Their victory against Germany proved that defense is the most vital aspect of this team and they have only conceded one goal so far in the whole tournament and have yet to concede from open play. The imperious form of Jordan Pickford is also a key factor behind the solid defense of England.
Similarly, the Italian defense has been tremendous as they have only conceded 3 goals in the whole tournament. The experienced duo of Giorgio Chiellini & Leonardo Bonucci has kept it tight at the back for the Italians, affording very few chances for the opposition to score goals. T
Their young goalkeeper Gianlugi Donarumma has been incredible in important moments when called upon. His heroics in the penalty shootout against Spain where he saved vital spot-kicks & his display against Belgium, showed that he has a bright future ahead of him. It's safe to say both teams are riding high on their success because of their defenses
As both these nations contest Sunday's final of the European Championship, it's hard to pick a winner in this one. England will head into it as the favorites, as they have the home advantage, with the final being played in Wembley, but Italians will be unfazed by the occasion as they too have been absolutely fantastic throughout the whole tournament. Whatever the result is on Sunday, one thing is for sure that both nations have come a long way from their past disappointments and would have made their fans proud regardless of who ends up being the winner and the loser of the final.
© 2021 Diganth Shetty