Business Weekly (Zimbabwe)
The perfect Euro 2020 final
YOU know, when you step back and look at it, there really is no way that Euro 2020 should have been this good. Half-empty stadiums strung across an entire continent, knackered players: this should have been a tournament of incompetent cowardice. Or cowardly incompetence. Whichever sounds less appealing. Safety first football at walking speed.
But no. From straw, gold. And, with no disrespect intended to either Denmark or Spain, this surprisingly brilliant tournament will end with the perfect final.
The two best teams in the competition, in wildly different ways; a clash of styles as well as narratives. Plus, and this is important, both teams should be wearing their home kits. Unless UEFA do something monstrous.
It will be an occasion. Wednesday night Wembley, arcing back towards capacity after more than a year of emptiness, was a hoarse-throated, nail-bitten, tear-soaked mess of nerves and quivering tension and blessed relief.
Sunday will be the same, but magnified by the sight of a little silver trophy standing by the touchline, and magnified again by the generational nature of the achievement. England don’t make finals. It’s one of the rules. Nobody is going to have any idea what to do with themselves.
And it should be an interesting game, right? Obviously Southgateball isn’t the most thrilling spectacle in itself, not that anybody cares.
But happily Italy are entertaining enough for two. You wouldn’t call them perfect, but they are a notch above anybody England have played so far, and they seem to be riding their own wave of twitchy destiny.
We’d have said that Italy’s manager was a cut above England’s too, were it not for the fact that Southgate Wednesday night Well done Euro 2020 revealed himself to be an ice-cool assassin with Freon for blood and a scientific calculator where his heart should be.
On goes Jack Grealish when the game needs winning. Off comes Jack Grealish when the lead needs defending.
Being subbed as a sub is usually taken as football’s greatest insult, though in this case we suspect Grealish will escape with his reputation intact.
This wasn’t about him, or how he was playing. This was about utility. About having the right people for the task in hand. Sometimes you need a player to dribble around people and win free-kicks, and then sometimes, a little bit later, you don’t.
Before the tournament, England’s glut of bright young versatile attackers looked both strength and weakness. Brilliant players; what are you going to do with them all? But six games in, it looks like Southgate has clarity. Saka for this job and Sancho for that one. Grealish for this one and then, oh, not any more.
If you want a really fate-tempting and generous comparison, it is a bit like that Italy squad that won the World Cup in 2006, rotating through six forwards — Del Piero, Totti and the rest — as the situation required. A little bit like that. A teensy, tiny bit. Maybe.
England start each game with a plan, and have the depth and quality on the bench to change it according to circumstances and the needs of game management. However! Exactly the same thing is true of Italy.
England have the home crowd, the songs, the smells, the noise; Italy have the knowledge that they’ve already seen off Belgium and Spain.
England have a sense of destiny behind them, an upward redemptive arc from recent lows. But then Italy have that too! It’s going to be great, is what we’re saying. Well done, Euro 2020. Well done everybody. EuroSport.