THISDAY

Wembley Rumbles as Italy, England Clash

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Italy and England will lock horns for the 28th time tomorrow, with the two teams battling for the European Championsh­ip trophy. England topped Group D with seven points before beating Germany, Ukraine and Denmark in the knockout rounds to advance to the showpiece event at Wembley. Italy, meanwhile, finished at the top of Group A with nine points before overcoming Austria, Belgium and Spain to book their spot in the Euro 2020 final

England will have home advantage, but Italy have not lost a single match at internatio­nal level since September 2018, and Roberto Mancini’s side will be confident of upsetting the Three Lions on Sunday evening.

Italy lead the head-to-head record between the two sides with 11 victories to England’s eight, while there have also been eight draws throughout history.

After two epic semi-finals, London now hosts a decider which, for the first time in Euro history, will feature England. Since their 1966 FIFA World Cup triumph at the previous Wembley Stadium, England have lost in the semi-finals of five major tournament­s: Euro ‘68 and ‘96, the 1990 and 2018 World Cups and the 2019 UEFA Nations League. However, they have seen off Germany, Ukraine and, in extra time on Wednesday night, Denmark to earn their chance to end 55 years of hurt.

Italy’s sole Euro title came as hosts back in 1968. They also lost the finals of 2000 and 2012, although since becoming continenta­l champions they have won two of their four World Cups. The Azzurri beat Spain on penalties on Tuesday to still remain unbeaten in 33. A remarkable turnaround for a team who, while England reached the 2018 World Cup semis, did not even qualify for Russia. But sitting out a preceding World Cup did not stop Czechoslov­akia in 1976, Denmark in 1992 or Greece in 2004 claiming the European title.

England manager Gareth Southgate wants his players and the fans to enjoy the fact that the team has reached the final of Euro 2020, but he has warned there is still “one more massive hurdle to conquer”.

The hurdle that England are facing at Wembley on Sunday night is Roberto Mancini’s Italy - a team that are unbeaten in 33 games.

The Azzurri have gone from failing to qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup to making it to the Euro 2020 final, Al Jazeera says.

And having not lost since September 2018, if they extend their “astonishin­g” record to 34 matches Mancini’s men will be crowned European champions.

Describing Italy as a “fantastic team”, Southgate knows the size of the task that his squad must take on if they are to win their first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup. However, he is “so pleased” for the country and “so proud” of his players that the Euro run will continue until Sunday’s showpiece fixture, the BBC reports.

Captain Harry Kane, who scored the extra-time winner against Denmark in the semi-final, added: “We got there when it mattered. We reacted really well and we’re in a final at home. We know it’s going to be a very tough game against Italy. We’ve had a great tournament so far. One more game to go at home.”

Winger Federico Bernardesc­hi has revealed that when Mancini took over as

head coach in 2018 he was the only person who believed that Italy could get to the final of the Euros, the London Evening Standard reports.

“There was only a madman three years ago to say we could get to this point and it’s Mr. Mancini,” Bernardesc­hi said. “He’s always believed in us, he has always brought enthusiasm to everyone. When he says that we are a squad of 26 players, it is the truth, because we are a wonderful group.”

After beating Spain on penalties in the semi-final at Wembley, Italy will return to England’s national stadium full of confidence of winning the European Championsh­ip for the second time in their history.

Forward Federico Chiesa praised England for their “top players in the final third and all across the pitch”, but urged his own team-mates to “simply think about ourselves, as we have done throughout this tournament”.

 ??  ?? Raheem Sterling has been inspiratio­nal for England since the beginning of Euro 2020 and the Three Lions would be counting on him against Italy on Sunday
Raheem Sterling has been inspiratio­nal for England since the beginning of Euro 2020 and the Three Lions would be counting on him against Italy on Sunday

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