Watch out, Wembley… Italy has woken! Mancini’s record breakers have forgotten how to lose, with Jorginho pulling the strings and a colossal keeper… but here’s why they also have an achilles heel
- Italy face England in the final of Euro 2020 on Sunday night at Wembley
- The Azzurri have been excellent so far, scoring 12 goals in six games at the Euros
- Roberto Mancini’s high-flying side last lost a fixture back in September 2018
- Their team is based on a great defence but will pose England plenty of problems
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
Fratelli d’Italia, Italia s’e desta are the opening two lines of the Italian national anthem. In English they’re translated as ‘Brothers of Italy, Italy has woken’.
The second line certainly applies to the Italian football team as they have awoken from their slumber and are in the final of Euro 2020 where they’ll face England at Wembley on Sunday night.
We all know about England but what about their opponents? Sportsmail provides the lowdown on the Azzurri.
Italy are through to the Euro 2020 final on Sunday as their international resurgence continues
WHERE ARE THEY STRONG?
Let’s start with catenaccio – the Italian philosophy for a strong emphasis on defence. No matter the era this remains a principle of Italian football and that remains the case here.
Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have seemingly been around forever but Father Time hasn’t caught up with them. The centre-back pairing have a combined age of 70 (Chiellini is 36 and Bonucci 34) and their experience has been telling throughout the tournament.
The pair are the rocks of manager Roberto Mancini’s defence and have been excellent in the quarter-final and semi-final wins over Belgium and Spain respectively.
Centre-back duo Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have been outstanding in defence
In goal, Italy have the 6ft 5in towering presence of goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma
Captain Chiellini’s performances are more the remarkable when you consider that he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury at the beginning of last season but that doesn’t looked to have diminished any of his qualities.
Behind those two is one of the world’s best goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma. Despite being just 22 years old, he has 32 caps already for his country – making his debut as a 17-year-old in September 2016. At 6ft 5in he is a towering presence and one that Harry Kane and Co will find difficult to beat on Sunday.
Further up the pitch, Italy’s midfield has been purring all tournament. Jorginho has started every game at the base of it, while Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti have been the main two alongside him in a midfield three. The trio ooze technical ability in abundance and this is an area where they outshine England ahead of Sunday’s showpiece.
Marco Verratti (centre) is part of Italy’s technical midfield three and will cause England issues
It’s hard to criticise Italy when they have been so impressive but one area you could is in attack – and mainly at centre-forward.
Despite scoring 12 goals in six matches as a team, centre forwards Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti have failed to put the tournament on blast. Immobile has two goals in five appearances, while Belotti is yet to score in as many matches.
The goals have been spread around with wide men Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa having scored two apiece as well as midfielders Manuel Locatelli and Matteo Pessina. Barella has one, while Turkey centre back Merih Demiral put through his own net against them in the tournament’s curtain-raiser.
If there may be another cause of concern for the Italians it could be at left back. Leonardo Spinazzola has been outstanding there but suffered an achilles injury during their win over Belgium in the quarter-finals. Emerson Palmieri started against Spain but the Chelsea man is third-choice at his club and could face a difficult evening against the likes of Raheem Sterling and Co come Sunday.
Andrea Belotti (left) has failed to score in any of the five Euro 2020 games he has featured in
Up until his injury, Italy’s star performer had been Spinazzola – who had been astute in defence and swashbuckling in attack.
While Donnarumma, Chiellini and Bonucci need no introduction, the impact of Jorginho, Barella and Insigne has been pivotal to the Italians’ success and will be once more if they are to emerge victorious at the weekend.
In Jorginho they have their midfield metronome. He’s often been derided at Chelsea but the 29-year-old enjoyed a renaissance towards the end of the campaign that he has carried over into the Euros. Often picking up the ball from his centre backs he will be the one dictating the tempo of the side.
Alongside him is the ever-impressive Barella. If Jorginho is the metronome then Inter’s young star is the box-to-box energy in midfield, often willing to break the lines to provide an extra attacking threat. He can finish too when in a position to shoot – as demonstrated by his goal against Belgium.
Mancini may have some decisions to make across his front three but Lorenzo Insigne is a shoo-in. The diminutive playmaker is a special talent and isn’t afraid to shoot from distance as his wonder-strike against Belgium proved.
Jorginho (centre) is Italy’s midfield metronome and will dictate their tempo in Sunday’s final
For Mancini the recurring theme has been a 4-3-3 formation. This allows him to have a defensive platform, a hold of midfield and then be devastating in the transition phase with their pace in attack.
It’ll be fair to assume that nine of the names are nailed on for Sunday with only up front and one of the wing berths still to be decided – with Insigne starting on the left of the front three. Federico Chiesa, son of the great striker Enrico Chiesa, is likely to take the other spot after his brilliant semi-final strike.
Probable XI (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne.
Lorenzo Insigne looks nailed on to start on the left of a front three for Italy in a 4-3-3 formation
An excellent, elegant, deep-lying forward in his day, Mancini could further cement his reputation as a brilliant manager on Sunday. His managerial career has seen him collect prizes in Italy, England and Turkey but this would top the lot.
He took over a team that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and has now led them to the next major final. That is probably not talked about enough – the job he has done has been nothing short of fantastic.
His cool demeanour on the sidelines – both in looks and manner – has clearly filtered into the team’s psyche. While they are a dizzying whirl of energy at their best, harrying opponents with their pressing, when it matters most their minds are calm and calculating.
They kept their cool to beat both Austria and Spain after going into extra time, and after Mancini’s reassuring words prior to the penalty shootout against the Spanish left his men looking relaxed and focused – in contrast to their opponents, who were fired up and frantic – there was only ever going to be one winner.
Roberto Mancini (left) has turned Italy’s fortunes around since being appointed as manager
ROUTE TO THE FINAL
Near flawless. The topped Group A with a 100 per cent record beating Turkey 3-0, Switzerland by the same scoreline before rotating their personnel in a 1-0 win over Wales.
In the last 16 they faced a dogged Austria side and finally prevailed 2-1 in extra time after a goalless 90 minutes. Pessina’s goal proved decisive in the 105th-minute at Wembley.
The quarter-finals pitted the Azzurri against the world’s No 1-ranked nation in Belgium but Mancini’s men weren’t fazed as they won that encounter 2-1 – after taking a two-goal lead through Barella and Insigne.
Tuesday’s semi-final against Spain needed penalties to find a winner and they were convincing in the shootout, winning 4-2 after the match had ended 1-1 after 120 minutes of action.
Nicolo Barella (far right) watches on as he scores against Belgium in Italy’s 2-1 quarter-final win
Italy’s six-game unbeaten span in the tournament has taken their tally to 33 games in all competitions (winning 27 and drawing six) – a national record. Their last defeat came on September 10, 2018 in the group stage of the UEFA Nations League at Portugal (lost 1-0). Only Brazil (1993-96) and Spain (2007-09) have enjoyed a longer streak in history – with both having gone 35 games unbeaten.
They have also broken their records for a longest winning streak (13) – highlighting their momentum and the impact Mancini has had on this group since being appointed as manager on May 14, 2018.
England beware. Italia s’e desta.
Italy will be hoping to roar with delight on Sunday night as they look to go 34 games unbeaten
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