Euro 2020: Day 24
An increased attendance will be allowed inside Wembley as the competition reaches its climax, as Italy take on Spain in what is sure to be a mouthwatering prospect between two of the true European greats of recent generations. Italy have won this competition only once, back in 1968, their first appearance, while they can also boast 4 World Cup wins. Spain have been more successful in the European Championship, winning back to back titles in 2008 and 2012, as well as one back in 1964 before the Italians entered, while also being a World Cup winner themselves back in 2010 during that golden generation of Spanish football.
Italy had to overcome Belgium, an outside favourite by many and going through a bit of a golden epoch themselves, currently being ranked number 1 in the World, to book their place in London. The game, as expected, proved to be a terse affair at times, although Italy were the better side and took full advantage of their opportunities with two wonderful goals, while Romelu Lukaku of Belgium, who plays his club football in Italy, missed two big chances to score and really put the pressure on. More worryingly for Roberto Mancini, they also lost Leonardo Spinazzola, who had been one of the standout players of the tournament to date, with what looked like an achilles injury that could sideline him for a while.
Although boasting strength in midfield, they don’t have the same squad depth at the back, but it is expected Chelsea forgotten man Emerson will come in on the left hand side, where he will also at least be able to offer some threat going forwards. Further forward, Mancini has an embarrassment of riches and the challenge is as much who to leave out as who will start. Immobile started the tournament well but has since faded, while on the flip side Chiesa has grown into the tournament, Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli has also been integral in their success so far.
The old guard of Bonucci and Chiellini at the back offer experience and calmness, but they have yet to be really tested by a fast attack, something that could leave them exposed given their advancing years, although both are excellent at reading the game. Jorginho has been pulling the strings in midfield, much as he does for Chelsea, looking to keep possession and bring the more talented players into the game, something he will need to show plenty of against a possession rich side like Spain.
Spain needed penalties to overcome Switzerland in their last game, which was an achievement in itself given their recent record from the spot seeing them having missed 5 in a row prior to the shoot-out, including 2 against the Swiss. The game itself was once again one in which Spain will rue their missed chances, having taken the lead through another own goal (Spain had either scored or conceded a goal in their last two games prior to this also) before Shaqiri equalised. A red card tipped the scales in the favour of the Spaniards, but again they wasted their opportunities to press home the advantage, something that has been a problem throughout the tournament despite them hitting 5 twice. Once again they dominated the ball, with over 70% of the play, but with 28 shots at goal, 1 was a poor return.
Morata has been misfiring despite being the preferred striker, while the constant chopping and changing of the front line including the likes of Olmo, Torres, Sarabia and Moreno alongside can’t help, but that is no excuse for some of the finishing (or lack of) they have displayed in the final third. In midfield, a lot has fell on the shoulders of young Pedri, who is enjoying an outstanding season despite his age, but the return of the experienced Busquets has definitely helped, as does the selection of Jordi Alba when he starts at full-back.
I suspect this will be another game where Spain enjoy more of the ball and Italy look for the chances on the counter, with the midfield battle likely to be pivotal in who wins the battle. If Spain can get their front line to click, they could be a real threat to the Italian defence that have done so well under Mancini, but I think Italy will have just enough to get the victory, albeit I suspect it may go to extra time, and maybe even penalties, or at most a win by a solitary goal difference.Share this: