History beckons for the final two
Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor
Italy or England, who will win Euro 2020? Difficult to say. The last 28 days have shown us these are two of the best teams in the 24-team competition. Spain and Denmark would consider themselves incredibly unlucky after rousing displays in the semi-finals. But you cannot grudge the victories of the finalists.
Roberto Mancini’s side set the marker in the first match of the tournament with a thumping win over Turkey. A win that cemented Italy’s place among the favourites. In their journey through the group stage and the knockout games, the Italians unveiled various facets of their game, including a doughty defence that has always been their hallmark.
Gareth Southgate’s team were always the favourites. England shared 5/1 odds pre-tournament with France to win outright, which may have been flattering. But the side led by Harry Kane gained in confidence and stature with every win.
England stand at the cusp of history; they have a chance to erase the 55-year title drought. But they face one of the titans of football: Italy. A side that have won four World Cups and a European title. So they know something about winning at this level. A final is more a test of nerves. The side that hold their nerves will walk away winners.
Read on for the predictions of Gulf News staff and football enthusiast Sahil Sajan. Also watch their predictions before the semi-finals.
Italy will pay the penalty for Englands years of hurt
Matthew Smith, Sports Editor
For the first time in 55 years, England are back in the final of a major tournament. They defeated West Germany back in 1966 to lift the Jules Rimet trophy, and they are also back at the same venue to take on Italy on Sunday, with their hands closer than they ever have been to silverware in the interim.
On Wednesday, Gareth Southgate’s side saw off a fighting Denmark in front of a passionate crowd at Wembley.
Finally, England have put a paraphrased ‘55 years of hurt’ behind them to reach a major final. And they were well worth it. In all my life, I have never seen an England side fight so much, and believe so much in each other — and I include the star-studded Mexico 86 and Italia 90 squads. Southgate’s boys are the real deal — no prima donnas here — regardless of the naysayers at the start of the tournament about a weak manager and over-reliance on their strikers.
One goal conceded — which came last night from the Danes — in the entire Euro 2020 tournament is not an over-reliance on the goalscorers by any stretch. It is instead a resilience and determination bred over years which can only be built from the back.
Italy will be overwhelmed by the crowd and the atmosphere and England will rise to the occasion to finally break their trophy hoodoo.
I opted for Spain as my original tip before the tournament, and the fell to Italy in one of the closest and most thrilling semi-finals in living memory. I’m not to upset with that (some of my colleagues fared worse!). Good luck England. Here’s hoping I get this one right.
Italy have the skill and tenacity to win
Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor
I’m poor at predictions. I had picked Germany to win at the outset, but they crashed out in the last 16. Denmark were my choice when 24 teams were reduced to four, but the Danish exuberance wasn’t enough to see off a well-knit England side. That hasn’t stopped me from picking the winners.
So who will win Euro 2020? Italy will win, I’m sure of it. Their positive approach has been a revelation to me. Italians are traditionally grafters who defend stoutly and score on the counters. So it was refreshing to see Roberto Mancini’s team actively search for goals.
The defence led by captain Giorgio Chiellini showed that the Italians could shut down matches when required. And in the semi-final against Spain, Italy displayed their survival instincts even when they were outplayed.
But no side have more motivation than England. The 55-year hurt after the 1966 World Cup win is still raw. And that hunger was evident in their victories along the way. England are a good side, but can Gareth Southgate plot Italy’s downfall? I don’t think so because Italians know a thing or two about winning tournaments.
Four World Cup wins and a European Championship are ample proof of their game management. Something that’s a necessity at the higher echelons of the game. Italy have that, and England don’t.
It will be a tight affair. Italians love that. So the Azzurri’s will paint Wembley blue on Sunday.
England can go all the way
Imran Malik, Assistant Editor
In my earlier prediction I began by talking up England’s chances as I felt with the depth of quality in the squad, home advantage and an easier group than others that they could go all the way (there is video evidence of this!). But being knocked out in the semi-finals of Italia 90, Euro 96 and the 2018 World Cup I have learnt the hard way that backing your team often gets you nothing but pain and misery and so to avoid bringing them any bad luck I tipped Belgium to go all the way.
It was their golden generation’s last chance to win a major trophy and although they won all their group games and had a decent tournament, they never really came to life to light up the competition in the way that the Italians did who eventually sent them packing. Now Sunday’s final will pit the best attacking team against the team with the best defensive record.
Italy do look a little vulnerable at the back with Bonucci and Chiellini having a combined age of 70 and with Kane coming into form at the right time and Sterling playing as good as ever, I can see this being a very entertaining game which may need to be decided on penalties. England always choke when it comes to a shoot-out — but they have finally got to a final after 55 years which is a major achievement and I think they’ll banish another ghost by proving they can hold their nerves in a shoot-out. England to win it!
Southgate’s men will finally deliver
Sahil Sajan, Special to Gulf News
Well, we are coming to the end of the Euro 2020, and what a roller-coaster of tournament we have had. Before the start of the tournament I had picked the defending champions Portugal, due to the talent they had in the squad. Unfortunately they were knocked out by Belgium and, in all honesty, they never looked like an organised team throughout the tournament.
The bright side for me was that I had also predicted England would make it to the final and that has finally happened after a tense game against Denmark. Definitely I will be backing England to win the final, as finally they have broken the semi-final curse and will surely play with more freedom against Italy. It will be one of the hardest tasks to breakdown the Bonucci-Chiellini partnership but England will surely have the flair in them to break the deadlock.
Azurris have perfect blend of youth and experience
Mohamed Shamseer, Devops Engineer
I have been lucky with my predictions. I picked Italy as my favourites for the tournament, Denmark as my dark horses and both have done justice to my picks.
Who will win Euro 2020? I will stick with my initial prediction and Italy to win it.This Italian side is different. Roberto Mancini has transformed them in a short span of time. Unlike their predecessors, Mancini’s side plays possession-based football where they like to dictate the game, especially in the midfield. That is a refreshing sight to the footballing world but what wasn’t surprising was their robustness at the back. Despite having a combined age of 70, Bonucci, 34, and Chiellini, 36, remain the champions in the art of defending, which is bread and butter for the Italians. They have been the rock at the heart of defence that celebrates each tackle and clearance with the same enthusiasm as they score goals.
Italy started the tournament without any superstars nor any weakness in their team, but losing Spinazzola is a huge blow for them. He had been their best player as all the good things they were doing in attack was coming through the talented right-footed left-back. Now that he is injured, the passionate Italians will use it as an extra motivation to win the cup for him. The spirit and unity in that squad is unparalleled. Right from the way they sing their national anthem, we could see the passion running through their veins. Mancini’s side are unbeaten in their last 33 games and they are closing in on the all-time record of Brazil and Spain, who were unbeaten for 35 straight matches.
Unlike England, they have been tested properly and won games playing different ways in this tournament. I don’t think they will be fazed by the home crowd at Wembley. Also, I strongly believe that this Italian side — with grit, passion and leadership- are here to prove a point after that World Cup debacle. In short, Euro 2020 is coming to Rome.