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Italy and England showdown for final of Euro 2020: Is football coming home or coming to Rome?

By Chris Saunderson

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THE stage is set for a showdown between England and Italy on Sunday night at Wembley.

The two best teams in the competition have reached the final of Euro 2020 in 2021.

I have tipped Italy from the start after their strong performance in the group stages so cannot abandon them now, but my head is telling me Gareth Southgate's side will bring the trophy and football home.

The England team celebrate with their fans.
The England team celebrate with their fans.

Italian fans showed a great sense of humour with banners proclaiming that football was coming to Rome.

It was a case of broken Busquets on Tuesday night as Spain crashed out on penalties to Italy.

The Spanish were the better side but were not clinical enough in front of goal.

Busquets was imperious in midfield but ultimately ended up on the losing side.

I have said from the moment Italy won their first game 3-0 against Turkey that I fancied them to go all the way.

And here they are in the final. Roberto Mancini, complete with his wonderful eyebrows, has worked wonders with this team.

Georgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are to Italian football what the Mitchell brothers are to Walford - frightening and revered in equal measure.

Chiellini is 36-years-old but looks like a 90-year-old who has had a tough paper round.

He has the face that only a mother could love but boy can he defend, and he has a sense of fun from his football that is refreshing. Before, during and after the game, and even in the midst of the penalty shootout he was laughing and joking.

Chiellini and Bonucci are old school defenders, who celebrate every defensive clearance like their lives depended on it. They not only park the bus, they would throw their grannies off it too just to keep a clean sheet.

The team spirit among the Italians is like nothing I have seen, and you get the impression they would walk through brick walls for each other.

They have some exciting players in attack, the very mobile Ciro Immobile, Federico Chiesa who scored a wonder goal at Wembley (I am old enough to remember his dad Enrico) and the diminutive (that’s another word for short arse) Lorenzo Insigne, who is a giant for his side despite only standing 5ft 4in tall.

Fast forward 24 hours and 55 years of hurt - 54 if you still refer to the delayed tournament as Euro 2020 - melted away as Engerland made it through to their first major final since; yep, you guessed it, 1966!

In 55 years time, will they still be talking about the team of Euro 2020/2021 (delete as appropriate)?

We will find out on Sunday night when Gareth Southgate’s players take on the Italians at Wembley.

The sentimental neutrals were willing Denmark to win on Wednesday night after they had fought their way to the last four despite the trauma of their captain and talisman Christian Eriksen suffering a cardiac arrest in their opening game of the tournament.

Sentiment alone doesn’t win you games but the Danes had already proved they were a good side as they stormed to the semi-final.

However, their Viking spirit wasn’t enough in the final analysis , despite opening the scoring - in the process becoming the only team to score against England so far - through a Mikkel Damsgaard free-kick in the first half.

An own goal from their captain Simon Kjaer levelled matters and then the game moved to extra-time.

England had lost on penalties to Germany 25 years before in the semi-finals of the European Championships, when Southgate was the player who missed the vital spot-kick at Wembley.

Ironically, it was a penalty which saw his team clinch their final place when Sterling collapsed like a folding table in the box and Harry Kane, normally so reliable from 12 yards, saw his penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel but the luck was with England when the ball rebounded into the path of their captain and he scored at the second attempt.

So, football could be coming home after all!

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