Three key battles: Italy vs England
Sunday, 11 July 2021
Where might the game be won and lost? Our team reporters look ahead to the UEFA EURO 2020 final.
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Italy take on England in the UEFA EURO 2020 final on Sunday as the quest for continental glory reaches a climax at Wembley Stadium.
Both teams will kick off with serious credentials, the Azzurri now unbeaten in 33 games while the Three Lions have only conceded once all tournament. Could these head-to-head tussles ultimately decide who lifts the trophy?
Federico Chiesa vs Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw has been terrific when raiding down the left in this tournament, notably against Germany and Ukraine, and ranks as England's leading chance-creator with nine. On Sunday, however, the Manchester United man may have to be at his best defensively against an in-form Federico Chiesa.
The Juventus forward brings energy and electric pace, not to mention a sharp shot – as demonstrated by his two goals in the tournament so far: a laser strike from a tight angle against Austria in the round of 16, then a perfectly curled effort against Spain in the semi-finals.
The 23-year-old has already proved to be a big-game player at club level, scoring crucial goals last season for Juventus in the UEFA Champions League and the Coppa Italia final. Will he also leave his mark in the biggest match of his career? If so, Shaw may face a repeat of his semi-final frustrations, when the task of containing Martin Braithwaite limited his attacking impact.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo vs Raheem Sterling
When Raheem Sterling was contesting the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-finals with England, after leading Manchester City to the Premier League title with 18 goals, Giovanni Di Lorenzo – one year his senior – was watching the tournament from his native Tuscany.
The right-back had just won promotion from Serie B with Empoli. Only a year earlier, he had been playing in the Italian third division with Matera, a side from the spectacular southern town famed for its 'Città dei Sassi' (City of Stones) but anything but a footballing powerhouse.
Di Lorenzo began the tournament as a squad player but has not looked back since Alessandro Florenzi suffered a calf injury in the opening game against Turkey, producing a series of solid performances. His most difficult night to date was against Belgium youngster Jeremy Doku; in Sterling, he will encounter a forward of a different class – a Player of the Tournament contender with the bit between his teeth, who has taken on defenders more often than anybody else at this EURO (29 times).
A goal for Sterling could be curtains for Italy, given that England have never lost when he has scored. So, for Di Lorenzo, a little help from a friend – namely centre-back Leonardo Bonucci – may well be needed here.
Jorginho vs Mason Mount
Jorginho and Mason Mount know each other inside out, having won the UEFA Champions League together with Chelsea only six weeks ago. Will that knowledge give either an advantage? Difficult to say. Certainly Mount will be aware that Italy's game passes through the feet and brain of his Stamford Bridge team-mate, but Jorginho has plenty of respect likewise for the 22-year-old, whom he has described as being "always in the right position" and a player who "works for the whole team".
Mount is a clever footballer capable of finding space and intelligent out of possession too (witness his efforts to help shackle Luka Modrić for Chelsea against Real Madrid last season). He has clearly earned Southgate's admiration and trust, and any direct encounters with Jorginho should provide an intriguing battle of wits as both men look to join the group of nine players who have previously won the EURO trophy and the UEFA Champions League in the same year.