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Italy aren’t unbeatable, Nicholl tells Three Lions

Euro 2020

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Close look: Jimmy Nicholl saw Italy when they beat NI in March

Close look: Jimmy Nicholl saw Italy when they beat NI in March

Close look: Jimmy Nicholl saw Italy when they beat NI in March

Northern Ireland legend Jimmy Nicholl believes England can overcome Italy in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

Ian Baraclough’s side lost 2-0 in their opening Group C World Cup qualifier in Parma in March but assistant boss Nicholl detected chinks in the Azzurri armour and he believes Gareth Southgate’s men can put them on the ropes.

Nicholl, who featured in two World Cups during his 73 appearances, says Sunday’s mouthwatering showpiece is delicately poised as a flying England side face Roberto Mancini’s men, who are on a stunning 33-game unbeaten run.

The Italians are confident they will conclude their World Cup qualifying campaign at Windsor Park on November 15 as European champions but England are desperate to claim the prize for the first time.

“My money’s on a draw after 90 minutes and it wouldn’t surprise me if it went to penalties,” said former Manchester United ace Nicholl.

“It’s so close with both teams in top form. I’ve enjoyed their attacking styles and England have good options on the bench like Phil Foden and Jack Grealish. If you had asked me about Italy before the tournament I would have had doubts as I wasn’t overly impressed with them against us.

“I kept the thinking about the second half when we played well and I had some reservations about them.”

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The last time the classy Italians lost was on September 10, 2018 in a Nations League match against Portugal but Nicholl says they can be vulnerable.

“It’s a great record but I lent towards England rather than Italy before the tournament,” he added. “Having seen Italy up close, I would have put a bet on England but it’s too close to call.

“I think it could go to extra time. Italy should win the midfield battle with Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti but defensively, they are there to be got it. It’s a great chance for England to win a trophy and their players are in good form.”

Gary McAllister, spokesperson for the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs, expects a tight battle.

“I think Italy are undoubtedly a good team and they have a good chance of winning it but this is one of the best England teams we have seen in a long time so I feel they are evenly matched,” he said.

“I would expect a very competitive game. Both teams have a high work ethic and England have been set up well by Gareth Southgate.

“They aren’t giving much away and neither are Italy.

“Both teams are very well organised and I always enjoy watching teams who can break quickly and get at the opposition.

“I think Luke Shaw has had an excellent tournament in the way he gets forward and creates chances.”

McAllister, like other members of the Green and White Army, are scratching their heads after England fans snatched their fans anthem ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond.

“It’s surprising and I think the crossover has come more from the boxing as we have seen it played at the Carl Frampton fights,” he added.

“England have well known football songs and I’m surprised they haven’t stuck to them.”

Nicholl added: “I kept thinking about the second half when we played well and I had some reservations about them.”

The last time the classy Italians lost was on September 10, 2018 in a Nations League match against Portugal, but Nicholl says they can be vulnerable.

“It’s a great record but I lent towards England rather than Italy before the tournament,” he added. “Having seen Italy up close, I would have put a bet on England, but it’s too close to call.

“I think it could go to extra time. Italy should win the midfield battle with Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti, but defensively they are there to be got at. It’s a great chance for England to win a trophy and their players are in good form.”

Gary McAllister, spokesperson for the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs, expects a tight battle.

“I think Italy are undoubtedly a good team and they have a good chance of winning it, but this is one of the best England teams we have seen in a long time, so I feel they are evenly matched,” he said.

“I would expect a very competitive game. Both teams have a high work ethic and England have been set up well by Gareth Southgate. They aren’t giving much away and neither are Italy.

“Both teams are very well organised and I always enjoy watching teams who can break quickly and get at the opposition.

“I think Luke Shaw has had an excellent tournament.”

McAllister, like other members of the Green and White Army, are scratching their heads after England fans snatched their fans anthem ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond.

“It’s surprising, and I think the crossover has come more from the boxing as we have seen it played at the Carl Frampton fights,” he added.

“England have well known football songs and I’m surprised they haven’t stuck to them.”

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Trevor Carson has joined Dundee United.


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