By Emmanuel Okogba
Italy and England will face-off later today in the final of Euro 2020 having proven to be worthy contenders for the most sought after national team football honor in Europe.
The ‘Football’s Coming Home’ anthem by David Baddiel, The Lightning Seeds and Frank Skinner has gotten louder since England saw off Denmark in the semi-final to qualify for their first major football final since 1966.
Being that football is believed to have started in England, it is only expected for English fans to see winning the trophy as an appropriate compensation.
The Italian side standing between them and the title are no pushover either. Italy has not lost a game in 33 matches and don’t look like giving up their record anytime soon.
In the last five meetings between both sides, Italy has won four, while they played out a goalless draw during a 1998 World Cup qualifying match.
Only Jordan Henderson and Luke Shaw were part of the England squad the last time they met at the 2014 World Cup. Henderson has so far played fringe roles in this competition, coming in as a substitute while Shaw has been the most preferred at left back position.
For Italy, a side loaded with big tournament experience, the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile, Marco Veratti, Leonardo Bonucci and Salvatore Sirigu will hope to end their international careers with this win as an icing on their cake.
England will expectedly start with Jordan Pickford in goal with a defence line of John Stone, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Kyle Walker. Kalvin Philips who has cemented a starting spot for himself affect his man of the match display in their tournament opener against Croatia is also expected to make the starting eleven. Mason Mount and Declan Rice should complete the midfield, while Harry Kane gunning for the top scorer position should lead the attack with Raheem Sterling.
Italy will be without inspirational defender Leonardo Spinazzola who sustained an injury in the win over Belgium and Chelsea’s Emerson Palmieri will most likely fill in at left back. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci should be at the heart of the defence, covering goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Jorginho, Barella and Veratti should make up the midfield, while the trio of Immobile, Insigne and Chiesa are expected to lead the attack for the Azzurris.
When Björn Kuipers will blow his whistle to end the match, Europe will have a new champion, and whichever city the god of football decides to party in tonight – London or Rome, expect a party that will not end this night.