EURO 2020 has been a tournament of change with games being played across the continent but now we enter the final rounds the stage is set in England. Wembley Stadium will host both games as well as the final, will it be destiny for Gareth Southgate or will dreams of football coming home be crushed once again?
6TH JULY – ITALY VS SPAIN – WEMBLEY STADIUM, LONDON – 20:00
The general consensus from footballing fans around the world is that Italy are the team to be feared, Roberto Mancini’s team with a clear philosophy to the extent to which is only usually seen at club team’s rather than internationally. If Italy were to beat the Spaniards and then win the final they would break the Spanish record for consecutive games unbeaten. Luis Enrique’s side are another team who enjoy possession, their squad epitomised by the 18-year-old Barcelona midfielder Pedri, the nation’s hopes lie on his shoulders as he takes the responsibility to create chances and dictate the tempo of the game.
Although they’re both comfortable with having the ball the key difference in quality of these teams is their performances within both boxes. Italy have been stubborn in defence and ruthless in front of goal, Ciro Immobile one of the most inform forwards in Europe over the past five years having scored 150 goals for Lazio in that time. Meanwhile, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini remain strong, experienced and full of passion putting their bodies on the line at any given opportunity. Contrastingly, Spain have been wasteful, their five goals against both Croatia and Slovakia papering over the cracks of Alvaro Morata’s struggles in front of goal while they remain weak in defence. Despite the clear differences in perceptions of both country’s this tie is far from settled, the Azzuri showing deficiencies in their last match at Wembley against Austria while Spain have the quality to hurt any opposition.
(Ciro Immobile celebrates: Getty Images)
7th JULY – ENGLAND VS DENMARK – WEMBLEY STADIUM, LONDON – 20:00
England will play at Wembley stadium in front of 60,000 fans the vast majority of which will be cheering on the Three Lions. It is 25 years since the last time England had the chance to reach a major final on home soil when Gareth Southgate missed his penalty against Germany to crush the dreams of football coming home. Now, the England manager has the chance to go one better with his unfinished business. Denmark’s progress to this round is one for the romantic as well, a nation unified through trauma the chance to play in a European Championships final feels like destiny for both.
The English are yet to concede a goal at the tournament, Southgate’s pragmatic approach has been labelled by some as boring with fears he was yet to unlock the attacking talent of his team. However, four goals against Ukraine has debunked those concerns, England have been the most efficient team at EURO 2020 and look a group of players bonding, unlike the failing teams of the past. They played against a direct front three against Germany at Wembley in which they won 2-0, that looks the perfect practice for dealing with the threat of Kasper Hjulmand’s side who play through the thirds with quick vertical passing to progress up the pitch at pace.
The key factors in this tie will come from the coaches as both have been versatile tactically. England have operated with a 4-2-3-1 system but switched to a 3-4-3 in their match-up with Germany, a change that proved successful. Denmark use the same three at the back system but themselves switched to four in defence against Wales during the game to nullify their threat and ultimately dominate the match. Will Southgate look to match Hjulmand or is it the turn of the Dane’s to pay the ultimate respect the other way? Time will tell.
(England manager Gareth Southgate: Getty Images)