Euro 2021
REUTERS/Carl Recine

Euro 2021 Final: A Preview Of The Biggest Game Of The Year

England vs Italy in the Euro 2021 final is set to be the most important football match of the year. The stakes could not be higher, as both teams have clawed their way into this final and will have hundreds of millions of eyes watching them play. The English, under Gareth Southgate, will aim to bring home a major intentional trophy to England, something that has evaded them for the past 55 years. On the other hand, Roberto Mancini and the Italian squad are on a mission and will look to continue their 14-game winning streak and 33-game unbeaten streak. Both teams have looked great for most of the tournament, dispatching the ball into the back of the net clinically and holding clean sheets regularly. However, Italy and England still have their biggest test ahead of them in each other. It is time to take a look position by position to see who may have the edge in the final at Euro 2021.

Goalkeeper

Aside from Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer, the two goalies in this final have been the best shot-blockers in the entire tournament. Gianluigi Donnarumma, who is only 22, has taken the reins from Gianluigi Buffon as the prime Italian goalkeeper at the tournament. He was hardly tested in the group stages save for the match against Austria, but his efforts were crucial in the knockout matches against Belgium and Spain. His save against Kevin De Bruyne’s left-footed strike, which seemed destined for the top-corner, could arguably be the save of the tournament considering the difficulty and importance of the save. Jordan Pickford has been equally as great for the English side, making every save that he was expected to and acting as a true leader. Both these goalies will likely be tested in this final far more than they have been in this tournament, so it should be interesting to see how they perform.

Defense

There is simply not much to say about Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. They do not have a ton of swagger or style, but they know how to get the job done. The pair has been one of the best and most consistent center-back duos in football for the last decade or so and even at their ages of 34 and 36, they have still maintained this excellence.

On the flip side, England has, in my opinion, the best international center-back duo in the world in Harry Maguire and John Stones. Their combination of size, speed, and athleticism is simply unmatched, as the Three Lions have only conceded one goal this entire tournament.

Defending is not at all just about the center backs, especially in the modern game. England’s center backs are complemented extremely well by their elite outside backs in Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw. Walker’s defensive work has been truly phenomenal, especially in the semi-final against Denmark, while Luke Shaw is practically a left winger with his ability to get up the field to serve crosses, adding another dimension to the English attack.

The Italians suffered a great loss when arguably their best player, Leandro Spinazzola, tore his Achilles tendon in their quarter-final match. His replacement, Emerson, did well in the semi-final against Spain, but Spinazzola’s absence will be felt in this final. On the other side, Giovanni Di Lorenzo has been a consistent starter for Mancini in this tournament and has played well, so that is unlikely to change. I know I have raved about this English team and its defense before, but the English are truly superior in this area of the pitch, possessing a back four that knows how to defend together as well as attack from the wings or even aerially off of set pieces.

Midfield

It is difficult to compare the two midfields, as England plays with two defensive midfielders in Declan Rice and Kelvin Phillips and one attacking one with Mason Mount while Italy has 3 midfielders playing at the same level in Marco Verratti, Jorginho, and Nicolò Barella. This Italian midfield is extremely talented with the ball and their creativity is often the catalyst for Italy’s attacking chances. Thus, their matchup against the more defensively-minded Rice and Phillips will be an interesting one to watch. Contrarily, I think most football fans know how good Mason Mount is, and he has been good throughout the tournament, if not great. If he can play at his best, the English attack becomes far more lethal. I will give the edge to the Italians in the midfield, as they have the creativity that the English midfield lacks at times, but the English can match if Mount can get it going and Phillips stays in attack mode.

Attack

The English and Italian attacks will likely be the most important parts of their lineups, as one spectacular move or finish could be the difference-maker in this match. If Raheem Sterling can put together one more great performance in this final, he would have my vote for the player of the tournament. He has been the most dangerous English attacker throughout the tournament, even more so than Harry Kane. However, Kane seems to be coming into form at the perfect time as well. His finishing is world-class but his ability to drop back and create will be crucial to English success against the stout Italian defense. That leads me to the third English attacker, who will likely be Bukayo Saka. I am still banging the drum for Jack Grealish, who seems to be more of a super-sub for Gareth Southgate as of now. Saka is by no means a bad player, however, as his one-on-one ability is excellent in open space and he has proved to be extremely talented at drawing fouls in strategic areas of the pitch.

The Italian attack has been brought to life by Federico Chiesa’s inclusion in the starting lineups over the last few games, and he creates chances whenever he is on the ball. On the other side of the park, Lorenzo Insigne has had a wonderful showing as well. Although him cutting inside to his right foot to shoot is almost as predictable as Arjen Robben cutting it back inside to his left foot, it still remarkably works! With Chiesa on one side and Insigne on the other, the Italian attack is extremely dangerous from the wings. As much as I hate to say it since he is a truly talented player, Ciro Immobile has been an Achilles heel for them. Besides his brace in the first game of the tournament, the Italian center striker simply has not performed close to the level he is capable of and has limited the Italian attack. Simply because Kane seems to be in much better form than Immobile at the moment and both teams have some really brilliant players on the wings in the form of their lives, I give the edge to the English attack. However, if Immobile can play the level we all know we can, the Italian attack becomes just as dangerous as the England’s.

Prediction

Although England is probably slightly more talented, Italy has been the more consistent team across the tournament. Considering how many games have gone into extra time at Euro 2021, I think the final will likely not finish in just 90 minutes of play, but my final prediction is that football is coming home and not to Rome. The English will win their first-ever European championship with a 2-1 victory in extra time, and be crowned as the champions of Euro 2021.

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