Monday, December 6, 2021

England and Italy out to end long ordeals in Euro 2020 final

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England may have the fans on their side on Sunday at Wembley but they face a monstrous task against Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

It will really be a herculean task as they bid to end a 55-year title drought.

The 1966 World Cup title, also won at (old) Wembley, is England’s only silverware, and the whole country hopes that manager Gareth Southgate and his players can end the long ordeal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is already under pressure to declare a bank holiday Monday in case of victory, for all-out celebrations.

But England run into an exciting Italy side under Roberto Mancini which is unbeaten in 33 matches over almost three years.

They therefore will not be intimidated by the 60,000-plus crowd at the iconic arena.

Italy also have history on their side, having never lost against England at a major championship.

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That makes the stakes incredibly high for captain Harry Kane and his teammates.

But they do not want to let this golden opportunity pass by.

This is after finally beating Germany at a big event, in the last 16, and then also downing sentimental favourites Denmark in the semi-finals.

“It will be a special day but there will be a winner and a loser and we have to make sure we are on that winning side,” Kane said. “We want it to be a special day for everyone.”

Midfielder Jordan Henderson said: “We haven’t achieved anything yet, we’ve got to go one more big push to try and win it …

“We know how good they are, and it is a tough test for us but one that we are confident of going out there and putting in a good performance.”

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Kane has started to find the net after going scoreless in the group stage and now has four goals.

This is one more than Raheem Sterling as Southgate and his generation of players could crown the good work that already saw them reach the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.

“I think the players have learned a lot over the last three or four years,” Southgate said.

They run into an Italian defence marshalled by veteran captain Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

But the Azzurri have also shown plenty of flair up front as well.

They have romped through the group stage on three magical nights in Rome before advancing further, after dispatching world-ranking leaders Belgium and Spain.

“I think it will be an epic final, and history-making either way,” midfielder Marco Verratti said.

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“England are a very physical team, and they have players who are very skilled as well. We will face a very, very tough team, they will be playing at home, and they know the stadium well.

“But it is a dream for us to win this European Championship.”

Italy chase a first Euro title since 1968 – while having the won the World Cup twice since then, in 1982 and 2006. It was the shock of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup that brought Mancini in and changed their fortunes.

“I thank the players because they believed right from day one that we could create something incredible,” Mancini said after the semi-final.

“We haven’t done everything we need to. There’s still one step to go.”

dpa/NAN

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