Italy vs. England – Euro 2020 Final – Tactical Preview

After the craziness of the Round of 16 resulted in France, Germany and Portugal all being eliminated from the competition, the match that was expected to take place in the Euro 2020 final will now come to fruition. Italy and England have been the two best teams at the tournament, and the only two teams to go unbeaten in all of their games up to this point. Here is a tactical preview of the Euro 2020 final battle between Italy and England.

italy – 4-3-3

Italy have played a 4-3-3 formation in every single match up until this point, leaving room for loads of tactical flexibility. Without Leonardo Spinazzola, it is crucial to note that an imperative part of their system has been taken out of the equation. The Roma wing-back plays such an important role in galloping up and down the left-hand-side. While Chelsea’s Emerson can play the position, he does not have the same level of tactical nuisance ingrained in him from fulfilling the role over the course of several months. This is a concern for Italy, and may even cause Gareth Southgate on the other end to take a more attack-minded approach.

Federico Chiesa will also battle for a place on the right with Domenico Berardi, both offering Italy a set of different advantages. Chiesa is a workhorse off the ball and has very natural finishing technique, while Berardi is better in possession and a more natural chance creator. Everything else in the squad looks pretty set as Mancini’s team head into the final.

defensive notes

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From a defensive perspective, a key tactical note for Italy will be in solving how to deal with England attackers moving off the ball and coming deeper to pick up possession. This was their biggest issue against Spain and ultimately how the Spaniards tied the game. Harry Kane likes to do this for both club and country, and this is how England carved open Denmark in the previous round. Mason Mount also likes to attract himself to the ball, and the likes of Barella and Jorginho will need to be on top of their games in both scanning for his positioning and communicating as he roams around the pitch, particularly toward Barella’s side.

After looking fairly tired in the last fifty minutes against Spain, Italy would also be wise not to press from the front. England are exceptional at playing out from the back, but they are much more patient than progressive. Italy should not feel any need to over-exert themselves in winning the ball high up the pitch, as not only will it be difficult, but also pointless given how long England often take to get themselves up the pitch. Mancini’s team should be extra careful not to push their right central midfielder up in the press as they did against Spain, as this would leave a massive gap for Mason Mount to exploit.

attacking potential

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Italy play a high tempo, quick transition style of football which has enough to trouble and unbalance even the best defenses. This is particularly important, given that England have had far and away the best defense at the tournament. The Three Lions have conceded just 1 goal at the tournament so far, and even that was from a direct free kick, rather than from open play. As a result, Italy will need to come out guns blazing and ramp up their high tempo approach, particularly in the first half when legs are fresh. In either of England’s potential shapes, it will be difficult for Mancini’s team to find space to exploit. Phillips and Rice should be well positioned enough to stop Barella and Verratti from being as resourceful as they were against Belgium, and England will compact the field in a way where quick switches of play will become more difficult to accomplish.

Mancini would be wise to keep the approach he had against Spain, in hitting longer passes or through balls in between gaps of the defense, particularly ones from deeper positions when less expected. Immobile, Chiesa and Insigne are all lightning quick, and and the space in behind Maguire and Stones could be exploited. That said, Walker and Shaw have superb recovery pace, and Stones and Maguire have been exceptional winning aerial duels at the tournament. So these passes are going to need to be hit at a height that loops past the England defense, rather than ones that can more easily be nodded down. The gap between Maguire and Shaw on a pass into space from di Lorenzo could be the spot to pull this off, given just how fast Kyle Walker is on the other side.

england – 4-3-3

England should be expected to almost match Italy pace for pace in a 4-3-3, but their system will look much more like 4-2-3-1. That is – Phillips and Rice will play without much distance between each other, and Mason Mount will push forward both in and out of possession.

The right-sided-winger is the only real position up for debate in the team, with Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, and Jadon Sancho likely to battle. Foden was exceptional in his cameo against Denmark, and Southgate may consider bringing him back into the team for the final. The pace and one-directional dynamism of Saka could be useful, but up against a very organized defense, Southgate would be wise to go for a trickster like Foden or Sancho. Since he seems to prefer Foden, the Man City winger should at the very least be expected to accumulate some minutes off either the right or left. Jack Grealish could also come into the team off the left and push Sterling to the right, but Southgate has been more reserved about using the Aston Villa captain from the start.

If Southgate deploys a back-three instead, that right-wing position will likely become one of an easy selection of Kieran Trippier at right-wing-back, as Mount is pushed further forward. The Chelsea midfielder would then have attacking freedom to roam centrally, right or left, and interchange with Sterling in particular.

defensive notes

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There is a real possibility that Gareth Southgate deploys a back-three in this match. But the possibility would have certainly been greater if Leonardo Spinazzola was fit to play. Starting someone like Trippier alongside Walker would have given England extra cover to cope with Insigne and Spinazzola’s trickery. But now with Emerson in the Italy team, Southgate may focus on exploiting and stunting Italy in other ways.

England are well set up to defend, and stop their opposition from playing to their strengths. This extends to Italy. The reserved positioning of Phillips and Rice will help to mitigate the potential threat of Barella and Verratti moving forward, while Shaw has the pace to cope with either Berardi and Chiesa. Mason Mount will also know how to handle Jorginho’s ability on the ball, from all of their days training and playing together toward Chelsea’s run to the UEFA Champions League final. Italy will likely want to get Insigne on the ball as much as possible and isolate Walker 1v1, but Phillips will have enough positional sense to stop that from happening.

While England are yet to concede a goal from open play at the tournament, Italy have been one of the better teams from set-pieces and could trouble their defense from a Lorenzo Insigne inswinging free kick. Maguire and Stones have the sturdiness to squash the threat of Bonucci and Chiellini in the air, and someone like Kane could match himself up against Immobile. In short, Italy will likely have a tough time breaking England down all ends up, and may need to rely on a mistake to score.

attacking potential

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England’s pace and power with players like Sterling, Mount and whomever starts on the right wing, will be a major concern for Italy. Mancini’s defensive organization has been so incredible that they’ve rarely been caught out against other teams, but players like Sterling and Mount are by in large different animals to what they’ve come up against so far. They had a tough time dealing with someone with the positional sense of Dani Olmo, and Mount is about twice as dangerous. Jeremy Doku also troubled Italy in the match against Belgium, and Sterling’s pace and power could do the exact same thing in helping his team not only create chances, but potentially win another penalty.

As noted in the Italy section, Harry Kane’s ability to drop in between the lines to receive the ball could be a particularly useful function for the Brits. Jorginho and Verratti will need to be wary of this, particularly if Mount is also buzzing around and causing havoc more toward England’s left. By doing this, England could easily pull defenders and midfielders away from their position. That would be particularly complicated if Kalvin Phillips were able to get on the ball and pull off the right looping pass in behind Italy’s defense, for someone like Sterling or Saka to chase. If Emerson finds himself too far up the pitch at the right moment, the right winger could have even more joy. Giorgio Chiellini is a beast at the back, but there’s only so much space the 36-year-old can cover. This is one more reason why a 4-3-3 could be the better approach, as in a 3-4-3, Kieran Trippier and Emerson will occupy a lot of the same spaces. In a 4-3-3, Walker won’t have any inclination to get forward, and Emerson could be caught out from hanging too high up the pitch.

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Luke Shaw will also pose a significant threat down the left side, which should allow Sterling as the left winger to roam and interchange. Barella will need to be on top of his game defensively, and this is once again one more reason why Italy should not press high, and opt for a mid-block instead. Chiesa’s inclusion will also be key here, since he has the desire to hunt everything down. But recognizing the talent of a man firmly on top of his game, Shaw will be overlapping and underlapping Sterling all game long. From there, he’s already proven on several occasions to pose an attacking threat from crosses, and passes into the penalty area at this tournament. If Italy don’t focus enough on their defensive structures down the their right and England’s left, Mount, Sterling and Shaw will link up for fun.


The Euro 2020 final between England and Italy is set to be a tactical battle more than worth watching, and will cap off a fantastic tournament full of drama. The two nations were far and away the best at the tournament, and the only two to go unbeaten in all of their matches. This makes it all the more intriguing as the final approaches, as eventually, one of them will lose.

So there it is! A tactical preview of the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England! Be sure to check out more of our Euros content, Match Analyses, and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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