EURO 2020 FINAL REVIEW- ITALY VS ENGLAND: 4 TALKING POINTS
SRINIVAS SADHANAND AND AMOGH PANSE | 12th July 2021
Italy have been crowned the champions of Euro 2020 as football isn’t coming home.
Let’s jump right into it for our 4 talkings points from the Euro 2020 final.
The shootout debacle has to fall on Southgate’s shoulders
Experience matters most in a penalty shootout and Bukayo Saka, as splendid as he is has never taken a spot-kick in his professional career. Him being England’s 5th penalty taker makes that all the more nonsensical. And unfortunately for the boy burdened with glorious purpose, he missed.
While age isn’t the greatest argument against Saka taking one, a lack of experience certainly is. This idea that the experienced lot should snatch the ball from the 19-year old and take a penalty is unrealistic because the gaffer makes the big calls here, not the players.
I said I wanted to take one!!!!
The gaffer has made so many right decisions through this tournament and he did tonight! But I won’t have people say that I didn’t want to take a peno when I said I will… https://t.co/3mBpKyMoUV
— Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish) July 12, 2021
Marcus Rashford simply had to step up to take a penalty, considering he is the best English penalty taker in the squad after Harry Kane but ideally, Southgate should have brought him on earlier so he could get a feel of the game before heading into the most nerve-wracking situation of his life.
Sure, the Three Lions boss must have wanted to keep things solid and not concede in extra-time but Rashford would have understood his role off the bench as a penalty taker and potentially eased into things.
All things said and done, it was surprising to see the Manchester United forward not go for power like he usually does for what was an underconfident strike.
And the same applies for Jadon Sancho. It is slightly unfair to assume he “should be ready” for a situation as daunting as a penalty shootout in a final when not much has been done to integrate him in the side at all.
It’s also worth pointing out that England barely have any seasoned penalty takers. Raheem Sterling and penalties are not best friends and Jack Grealish hasn’t taken one for 2 years. Jordan Henderson missed from 22 yards out in that game against Colombia as well as a recent friendly against Romania.
But you’d rather risk it with the experienced lot and whine about it after.
Gareth Southgate did mismanage the situation but to be fair, it is one of the hardest tasks in football to get on the money.
Mancini’s excellence has only been vindicated once again
Italy has prevailed all. What an undefeated run. It’s come to a point wherein even if Italy are sluggish in the first half, they pounce in the second with added vigour and as a viewer, that’s just what you expect. While the class of ’21 is a team that prides itself on strutting their stuff on the pitch, the Azzurri will never lose their fight just for the sake of finesse.
Roberto Mancini’s rejig of the national side plays an obvious, yet monumental role here and in a span of 3 years, since replacing Gian Piero Ventura as Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, he has singlehandedly flipped the switch.
Calls for Francesco Acerbi and Alessandro Bastoni were justified before the tournament but the Bonucci-Chiellini pairing not being dribble past even once during the clash and all tournament just embodies why sometimes, pedigree well and truly is everything at the upper echelon.
The clamour for Manuel Locatelli was entirely fair but can we take a moment to appreciate Marco Verratti?
100% aerial duels won, 5 tackles made and more touches than England’s entire midfield combined, the PSG operator was nothing shy of a maestro in the midfield.
Jorginho did the dirty work and protected the ball but regardless of the penalty miss and has been superb throughout, despite agendas around him that paint him out to be as flimsy a footballer as you’ll find.
All of these conversations and proving people wrong points to Roberto Mancini’s vision, how he was bang on about every single detail and emphasizes on the mark of a top manager is not succumbing to public pressure.
Sure, the Italians were under the cosh in the first 45 but in the second half, they refused to hide. Instead, they took initiative, dominated proceedings and unlike the Three Lions, were incredibly brave in both halves of the pitch.
The substitutions to bring Berardi and Bernadeschi on for more mobility and directness going forward worked wonders as the Italians looked so much more fluid than flat, operating with a natural No. 9 in Ciro Immobile.
All in all, Euro 2020 wasn’t ready for this Mancini masterclass.
Leonardo Bonucci’s passing is a cheat code
Having artists in the middle of the park didn’t make it any easier for the Azzurri to break the lines against an English side that was shielded by 7 defensive players. Space doesn’t come by easy, despite Marco Verratti and Jorginho running things in the middle of the park.
But when you’ve got one of the greatest ball-playing defenders of all time in Leonardo Bonucci, it’s almost like playing an additional deep-lying playmaker. One of the game’s longstanding liberos sprayed excellent passes, time and again to ignite Italy to break on the Three Lions and find spaces behind the Rice-Phillips double pivot.
Both sides had spells of being laborious in possession but Mancini’s men had the slight edge and a lot of that is down to how Bonucci’s distribution transformed Italy’s tempo in the 2nd 45. A lack of a forward press is suicidal against the Juve legend who puts on passing masterclasses for fun.
Add to that his scrappy equalizer and an assured spot-kick in the shootouts and it rounds off a 10/10 display from the champion of champions.
It’s not all doom and gloom for England
Let’s give credit where credit is deserved. It might not have been the fairytale finish they dreamt of but Gareth Southgate has silenced his critics, stuck with his trusted men and brought a relatively young English side further than anyone would’ve imagined.
With incessant debate about his squad selections before the start of the campaign, to playing a passive brand of football, Southgate may not be flawless but his tactics are conducive to international football.
Look, there’s no running away from the truth here.
Dismal is the appropriate word to sum up their attacking threat after the break as the Three Lions failed to produce any real goal threat after having a mere 34.6% possession in the 2nd half. 6 total shots as compared to Italy’s 19 is bizarre, given the fact that England scored in 2 minutes.
The approach can be overly pragmatic but it goes back to the point about Southgate not being flawless.
All in all, however, have young players been integrated to lead the English future? Yes. Is there a togetherness and a sense of optimism around English football? 100%. Did England ultimately deliver, despite falling short at the end? Undoubtedly.
These generational talents have made their mark on the highest of international stages and although they’re not coming home with a trophy, they’re surely coming home with a hell of a lot of respect.
Last but certainly not the least; Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho- all you should do is be proud of yourselves. Young kings.