Gareth Southgate revealed he “couldn’t be prouder to be an Englishman” as he prepares to become just the second manager to lead the country in a major tournament final on Sunday evening.
This weekend’s clash against Italy at Wembley marks the Three Lions’ first appearance in a competition showpiece since they went all the way in the 1966 World Cup final – a sizeable 55-year gap.
Southgate will follow in the footsteps of Sir Alf Ramsey by taking charge for such an occasion and the honour has not been lost on the 50-year-old.
“It’s an honour,” said the England boss. “Because we’re a special country, we are historically an incredible country and I know I couldn’t be prouder to be an Englishman.
“I can’t be prouder to have the opportunity to lead my country so to bring happiness at this time where it’s been so difficult for this period is a very special feeling.”
Former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has transformed Italy since taking charge following the disappointment of their failure to reach the 2018 World Cup.
Azzurri defender Leonardo Bonucci has sung the praises of his head coach as Italy look for a second European title, and their first since 1968.
“First of all he worked on our mentality, he gave us confidence back, restored our self-esteem and enthusiasm,” said Bonucci. “He made us believe what he wanted was the best way and the right way. He selected talent and quality, which is what makes you win in football.
“Playing with a lot of talent in the middle of the pitch makes everything easy, and that is what we have been doing for the past three years.”
England defender John Stones admits Sunday’s Euro 2020 final was merely a dream at the start of the tournament.
The Three Lions are set to play in the European Championship final for the first time.
“It’s huge, with it being at Wembley as well it’s even more special – something we could have only dreamt of at the start of the tournament,” said Stones.
“We’ve got this far now and we’ve grown throughout the tournament and not put too much pressure on ourselves. We’ve overcome some tough tests over the last few years.
“We’ve learned a lot of things and gained a lot of experience and that’s got us to where we are on Sunday. It’s a massive occasion.”
It is the youngsters versus the veterans.Leonardo Bonucci's take on England's attack against Italy's defence
England are without a competitive win against Italy in six fixtures (D2 L4) since a 2-0 victory at Wembley during the 1978 World Cup qualifying campaign.