"Now there is only the last centimetre left," defender Giorgio Chiellini tells EURO2020.com as Italy aim to complete a magnificent journey to glory.
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Italy's progress to the UEFA EURO 2020 final was a surprise to some, but not Giorgio Chiellini, who had warned his friends ahead of the tournament to expect an emotional summer.
Aged 36, this may be the centre-back's last chance to win a major international trophy. The final against England on Sunday will be his 112th Azzurri game and the Juventus stalwart is determined to make it one to remember. He spoke to EURO2020.com about the final, Harry Kane, his partnership with Leonardo Bonucci and what it would mean to lift the trophy at Wembley.Italy vs England: click for live coverage
On his pre-tournament hopes
This championship has been very emotional, from the first match against Turkey up to now. But, if I read some of the texts that I sent before EURO 2020 to some of my close friends, the feeling was that we would have a summer filled with emotion, joy, magical nights and adventures. It was in us because you felt the ease and the bond that we feel when this team does things together.
On Roberto Mancini's ambition
[Getting to the final is] a dream we've been chasing over the years, a dream we've been carrying [with us] for three years, a dream our coach slowly put in our minds until it became true. At the beginning, when he told us to have in our minds the idea of winning the EURO, we thought he was crazy; instead, during these years he has created a team which is now on the brink of doing that. And as he has repeated to us after every match, 'one centimetre at a time', and now there is only the last centimetre left.
On his defensive partnership with Leonardo Bonucci
We've played together for so many years at a high level. Obviously, when your team does very well it's normal people speak about [the partnership], but [getting acclaim] is not our main focus, because the only thing that really matters is that the team wins when the final whistle blows. The team does not win only thanks to Giorgio [Chiellini], Leo [Bonucci] or any other individual player. It's the whole squad who are having a fantastic tournament, in every position. This is the only truth. Otherwise, you can't win competitions like this.
On coming up against England's Harry Kane in the final
It will be tough. Extremely tough. I have always liked [Harry Kane] a lot. I still remember one of his first matches with England, when we played against them in Turin [on Kane's full England debut, a 1-1 draw in 2015]. Even then he made a huge impression on me. I was lucky enough to play against him [in a game against] Tottenham. He knows how to play deep and how to play a defence-splitting pass for a team-mate. He scores with his head and from long and close range.
England are clearly not just Kane because they have amazing players on both wings and their substitutes could all be in the starting XI of a team that wins this competition. Players like [Jack] Grealish, [Jadon] Sancho, [Marcus] Rashford, [Dominic] Calvert-Lewin, [Phil] Foden were all on the bench but they're top players, including [Jordan] Henderson – Liverpool's captain. It will be a great match. Neither team will be afraid but both will have a lot of respect for each other.
On what it would mean to win a first international trophy at 36
Every age has its good points. A win is as exciting at 36 as it is at 21 to someone like [Giacomo] Raspadori. Maybe at 36 you feel it more because you understand more how hard it is and the work that goes into it. I believe that I have succeeded in bringing my experience here and the emotions that I felt from the 15 years since I started playing professionally. You know how it feels at every age: at 20, at 25, and at 30 you start understanding your team-mates' behaviour. Now, I have the maturity to understand fully what this championship means to us.Get the EURO 2020 app!