Wembley factor makes England favourites to beat Italy and claim Euro 2020 glory


Gareth Southgate has got every big call right during the Euros so far

Gareth Southgate has got every big call right during the Euros so far (Picture: Getty)

It’s hard to know where to start when you look back at the decades upon decades of hurt.

Who could forget 1996 when they needed just a little bit more? Then there was Toto and Italy rubbing that last bit of salt into the wounds in 1990. Oh, and the dismal failure of 1994, which really was a ‘lonely symphony’.

Anyway, that’s enough about the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest. Let’s focus on this Sunday’s (drum roll) Uefa Euro 2020 Final between England and Italy.

My goodness, just reading that line, as an England fan, must be enough to make the head spin, the heart race and just a little bit of wee escape from an over-excited urethra.

It has finally happened. England fans, you are not dreaming. Roy Keane is not about to turn into a 17-foot tall lizard and gobble up Ian Wright. Your mother is not about to wake you with a cup of tea and a gentle reminder that you lost on penalties to Ukraine.

England will be hoping to celebrate in front of their fans at Wembley again on Sunday (Picture: Getty)

An entire football-crazy country is just one win away from spawning, at long last, a second glorious generation of sporting immortals that will be talked about long after you and I are too old to tango.

Alternatively, and I have to say this, it could be the deepest wound yet. Falling at the last hurdle will prove more painful than any disallowed goal, cheeky wink, cheating hand or missed penalty.

Every supporter of the Three Lions currently resides on the thinnest of tightropes, hovering between delirium and desolation.

If this match was at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, then I would make Italy the slightest of favourites. As it’s at Wembley, the same applies. I lean towards England, but only just, by a margin thinner than the contact felt inside the box by Raheem Sterling against Denmark. However, this really is a nerve-shredding, stomach-churning, brain-melting coin toss.

Federico Chiesa has been one of the stars of the tournament for Italy (Pictue: Getty)

Italy cannot remember what losing feels like, with a wizard of a young goalkeeper in Gianluigi Donnarumma, protected by more experience in defence than the Pentagon.

Losing Leonardo Spinazzola was a blow, but that more familiar Italian style has, in the knockout stages, reared its less attractive head when it has had to, and there’s not one part of Roberto Mancini’s rebuilt Italy that is easy to beat.

I would say the same for England who, like the Azzurri, are built from the back with several attacking options, albeit with more decisions for Gareth Southgate to make ahead of the big kick-off.

Defensively, they’ve been rock solid, while Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Raheem Sterling have proven the manager knows his players better than any erratic armchair warbler.

Harry Maguire’s return from injury has been a huge boost for England (Picture: Getty)

Go into both home and away dressing rooms ten minutes before kick-off and I don’t think you’ll find a single player who is not utterly convinced they are going to win the tournament. Both sides possess an almost bullet-proof togetherness that makes this intriguing final even more difficult to predict.

So, the only thing I’m even semi-confident about is that history will probably be written on one moment of individual brilliance, a rush of blood to the head or a dude nobody likes analysing a replay in Switzerland.

Alternatively, it could come down to William In Woking, who hasn’t shaved during the entire tournament but his partner is pressuring him to shear it off before a fancy family get-together on Saturday night.

Or maybe it’s in the hands of Sam in Southampton who has worn the same lucky underwear for each game, but is considering reaching for the Persil Non-Bio one game too early. Either way, it will all come out in the wash this Sunday. Just two more sleeps, England fans, then the dream comes true or the nightmare continues.

Let’s hope it is a case of ‘one step further’, ‘congratulations’ and ‘flying the flag’ rather than everything going ‘boom bang-a-bang’ once again.

A country holds its breath and, from where I am sitting, the jury is most definitely out.

MORE : Gareth Southgate reveals Italy’s one major advantage over England for Euro 2020 final

MORE : Jose Mourinho criticises Gareth Southgate over Jack Grealish substitution in England’s win over Denmark at Euro 2020

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