I firmly believe the right two nations are involved in tonight’s Euro 2020 Final.
When you analyse the performances from England and Italy since the competition started, they have got it right when it mattered.
Both managers have been excellent.
Roberto Mancini has totally revitalised the Italians. They are unbeaten in 33 games, and haven’t lost a match since September 2018. That’s quite incredible.
Will they extend their unbeaten run by one more game?
Well, they face Gareth Southgate, a man who has led his country in exemplary fashion off the park, and has proven to be a very astute operator when it comes to team selection and tactics on it.
Regardless of what happens tonight, Gareth deserves a lot of praise.
He was being heavily criticised after their first two games in the tournament when they beat Croatia 1-0 and drew 0-0 with Scotland.
Many England fans, and many media outlets, weren’t happy with the manager. Some were also questioning Harry Kane, and whether he should even be starting games.
But Gareth stuck by his captain and defended him. Kane has repaid that faith with important goals, and great leadership on the park.
The England manager was also brave the other evening when he took off Jack Grealish in the semi with Denmark after bringing him on as a substitute.
He replaced the Aston Villa skipper with Kieran Trippier to bring extra solidity as they defended their lead in extra-time.
It worked well and Jack accepted the decision like a true professional.
The team had to come first, and that’s the way it must always be if you are to be successful.
In Raheem Sterling, England have a man who is in breathtaking form. Indeed, he has been the Player of the Tournament – by a distance.
The Manchester City man was in stunning form against Denmark in the semi-final, even though he was fortunate to be awarded the penalty that led to the winning goal.
Raheem has wonderful pace, and a great tactical knowledge. I’ve been very impressed.
So I wouldn’t be surprised to see Raheem emerge as the main man again tonight.
He seems to enjoy playing at Wembley, and has had many memorable days there both with his country, and at club level.
Maybe the very best is to come for him tonight.
Having players such as Raheem and Harry gives England a slight edge. The game is also at Wembley, and home advantage has to be significant.
To have all but one game on their own turf has been very beneficial to Gareth and his players.
They now just need to produce it one more time. And I think they will sneak it.
To try to frustrate England, I’ve a feeling Roberto will tell his players to sit tight and be compact.
I believe they will look to hit the opposition on the counter-attack.
Italy’s strengths are their goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma, and the two central defenders, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
Kane and Co will need to be very special on the night to beat them.
In advanced areas, Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Federico Chiesa have the ability to cause the England backline an uncomfortable 90 minutes.
But what do Italy have left in the tank? They have an older squad than England and are bound to be a little bit spent at the end of a long tournament.
They will need to call on all of their energy and experience for this one after the shifts they put in to defeat Belgium, Austria and Spain in the knock-out stages.
Beating Roberto Martinez’s Belgians was a brilliant effort, and that’s why they can’t be ruled out. The Italians are both resilient and talented.
Mancini has won many things as a player and manager, and he will be as determined as anyone to emerge victorious around 10pm.
However, I think he will just be pipped by Gareth’s side.
If my prediction is correct, then how will I feel as a Scotsman living in England?
Well, I might just disappear and play golf for a year!
On a more serious note, when a side has played well and overcome some challenges during this tournament – and if England do beat a team of Italy’s quality – then they can only be congratulated.
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