After 55 long years, England will play in a major international tournament final again. The bad news for Gareth Southgate and his side is that they are facing a formidable opponent in Italy. Home advantage might give the Three Lions an edge for Sunday’s game and there will be tired legs on both sides after England and Italy had to go through extra time to win their semi-finals. Here are the six key players who will help to decide the outcome of the Euro 2020 final.
6 key players in the Euro 2020 final
Azzurri captain Chiellini is without a doubt one of the finest defenders of the 21st century and, even at the age of 36, the veteran remains the standout player in the Italian back line. He is also not averse to playing mind games to try and give Italy an edge.
Like England, Italy have been extremely solid in defence, keeping three clean sheets in the group stage, though they have since conceded once in each of their past three games. A born leader and a man unafraid to bend the rules to his advantage, Chiellini is a rock. But England may believe they can exploit his lack of pace by getting in behind the Italy defence.
Chiesa had to bide his time for a chance to shine at Euro 2020 but the winger now looks a certain starter in the final and is arguably Italy’s main goal threat with Ciro Immobile looking out of nick.
The son of Enrico, 23-year-old Chiesa has scored twice in the knockout stages including a stunning strike that gave Italy the lead in the semi-final against Spain. He appeared to be carrying a knock before being replaced in that match and Roberto Mancini will hope he is fully fit to take his place in the side on Sunday.
Verratti missed the start of the tournament as he was recovering from an injury. But, such is his importance to the Azzurri, the PSG midfielder came straight into the side as soon as he was ready – even though deputy Manuel Locatelli had scored two goals in two goals in his absence.
Adding bite to Italy’s midfield, Verratti is an extremely combative presence despite his diminutive stature. What he lacks in height – he is just 5ft 4in – he more than makes up for in aggression.
England’s deep-lying midfield duo has controlled most of their Euro 2020 matches so far but Verratti will be making it his goal to ensure that does not happen again in the final.
Harry Kane is now England’s top scorer at the finals, his winner against Denmark on Wednesday taking him to four goals for the tournament and into contention for the Golden Boot.
But there is no doubting who has been England’s attacking star at Euro 2020, with Sterling shaking off any question marks over his initial selection with a series of star performances.
Sterling scored England’s first three goals at Euro 2020 and he had a hand in both strikes to down the Danes, first pressuring Simon Kjaer into turning Bukayo Saka’s low centre into his own goal before winning the penalty that Kane converted at the second attempt in extra time.
The Manchester City forward may have lacked form heading into Euro 2020, but he is certainly in top gear as the final appraoches. If England are to lift the trophy, Sterling will have a huge role to play.
Phillips would probably not have been anywhere near England’s team had Euro 2020 taken place as planned a year ago but, with Jordan Henderson still building up his fitness levels, the Leeds United star has grasped his opportunity with both hands.
An assist for Sterling’s winner in England’s opening win over Croatia got Phillips off to a flying start in the tournament and he has been solid in partnership with Declan Rice in midfield.
Phillips had a nervy first half against Denmark but he grew into the game brilliantly and he was running the show by the end as England saw out extra time with ease against the 10 men.
Tyrone Mings played a part in England’s first two clean sheets at Euro 2020 but there was no doubt Maguire would be back into the side as soon as he was deemed fit enough to play Manchester United’s captain leads England’s back line and he has been a titanic presence, combining to great effect with club team-mate Luke Shaw throughout the tournament.
A thundering presence in both boxes, Maguire netted against Ukraine with a bullet header and he would have been on the scoresheet against Denmark but for a fine Kasper Schmeichel save. With Sunday’s final likely to be tight and tense, Maguire’s set piece threat is a huge asset for England and he has been rock solid in a defence that has conceded a single Euro 2020 goal.
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