England manager Gareth Southgate knows his squad stand on the verge of history ahead of the Euro 2020 final against Italy on Sunday – but will keep things very much business as usual.
The country will come to a standstill when captain Harry Kane and his side walk out at a packed Wembley aiming to emulate England’s World Cup triumph of 1966.
However, despite all of the pre-match hype and pandemonium which could follow, Southgate intends to keep his focus very much on the job in hand – winning a game of football.
“We have been tucked away in our base camp, which has been perfect for us. We have been able to prepare without any distractions,” Southgate said.
“There has been a lot of expectation, there has been excitement and we have been able to calmly go about our business, really, and we see tomorrow very much the same.”
Southgate added on BBC Radio 5 Live: “We have been conscious not to change anything this week, so (it has been) normal preparation for a game for us.”
Roberto Mancini has transformed Italy’s fortunes since taking charge following the disappointment of their failure to reach the 2018 World Cup.
After edging out Spain on penalties in their semi-final, the Azzurri are now unbeaten in 33 games.
Mancini accepts, though, getting to 34 could be the toughest ask yet of his very own Italian job.
“It has been a rocky road along the way, we have had to battle hard,” he said.
“I hope the team can once again entertain people for another 90 minutes tomorrow before they go on holiday – one last effort.”
Mancini added: “We must be concentrated on our football and understand it is the final hurdle.”
England will be hoping Phil Foden’s “minor knock” proves just that after the Manchester City playmaker sat out training on Saturday morning at St George’s Park with a foot problem. Foden came off the bench during extra time against Denmark, helping provide some fresh legs as England went on to secure a 2-1 win. Southgate later confirmed the 21-year-old’s fitness would continue to be assessed in the run-up to the final.
Much has been made of how Italy’s veteran Juventus central defensive partnership of Giorgio Chiellini, 36, and Leonardo Bonucci, 34, will cope with England’s youthful frontline. Azzurri captain Chiellini, though, reckons England have plenty of players in the squad who would give them cause for a sleepless night. “It almost makes me laugh because I think England’s bench could probably have made it to the final on their own because they have some extraordinary players,” he said.
Even having been sent a personal note from the Queen, as good luck messages go receiving a call from a Hollywood A-lister is close to top billing. England skipper Kane revealed Tom Cruise had been among the well-wishers to get in touch ahead of Sunday’s final. “We were fortunate enough to have a watch one of his films, so I think he was over here in the UK and he just dialled in and FaceTimed us just to wish us the best as a group, so that was nice of him,” Kane said. England fans will be hoping a Few Good Men or perhaps a couple of Mavericks can get the job done against Italy – and that it does not turn out to be a Mission: Impossible.
We are in a final and we are here to win. Now we want to go and bring the trophy homeEngland manager Gareth Southgate
Italy full-back Leonardo Spinazzola may not be able to help the Azzurri against England on the pitch, but the Roma defender is anything but a forgotten man. A ruptured Achilles suffered in the quarter-final win over Belgium brought a premature end to the left-back’s involvement in the tournament. Spinazzola, though, has still made the journey to London with the rest of the squad – crutches and all – to support his team-mates from the sidelines.
There is no official ‘Golden Glove’ award at Euro 2020, but if there were, England number one Jordan Pickford would be leading the way. The Everton stopper has the most clean sheets with five – Mikkel Damsgaard’s opener for Denmark in the semi-final the only goal conceded so far. Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma is one of several keepers to have let in three – which England fans will be hoping goes up a notch or two come the final whistle on Sunday.
Italy v England (final, July 11, Wembley, 2000 BST)