Euro 2020 has officially come to a close, with Italy crowned as tournament kings. England gave a mighty effort in the final to stop Italy from taking the crown, but as the match wore on there was only going to be one winner, and that was Roberto Mancini’s Italy. Nonetheless, the final proved to be an intriguing tactical battle. We break it all down in our Euro 2020 Final tactical analysis.
italy – 4-3-3
Italy set up in the exact same way with the exact same personnel as they fielded in the semi-finals against Spain. Roberto Mancini made intelligent tactical tweaks and substitutions throughout the game to change certain outcomes, including subtly changing his team’s shape in the second half. Ciro Immobile struggled to get involved for the second match in a row, and Domenico Berardi looked positive upon his arrival into the game instead. Nicolo Barella also looked off the pace for the first time in the tournament, and the introduction of Bryan Cristante allowed Italy to achieve greater dominance as the match wore on.
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Italy continued in possession with their 3-1-5-1 / 3-2-5 esque shape, as Emerson progressed down the left and Insigne tucked inside. Italy struggled to adapt to the pressure of the game in the opening thirty minutes, but completely took control for the next ninety minutes of regular + extra time. They ended on 65% possession, completely dominating the defensive English team.
Unfortunately, much of that possession felt patient and slow. Italy were never all that progressive with the ball, and struggled to find pockets of space in the final third. It was the centre-backs instead who often passed the ball around between themselves and Jorginho, and eventually someone (usually Bonucci) would look for a progressive, vertical pass into space for someone who happened to find a brief moment of space between the lines. To facilitate that process, di Lorenzo would sometimes also advance down the right side and pull an England player with him, as Jorginho slotted alongside the centre-backs instead.Embed from Getty Images
That patience in possession was still frustrating for England, as the Three Lions could not get a foothold after about the 35-minute mark. Italy were fine to play one-touch moves anywhere on the field, and pass backwards and sideways across the field. Again, Bonucci was the one looking to go a bit long and direct at times, rather than Chiellini. This was a complete 180 from the Spain match where Chiellini was often switching play through diagonal long passes on his left foot over toward Chiesa on the right to drive forward. In this match, the Italy captain did not attempt a single long pass.
Once in the final third, Chiesa was still the man driving the team forward, as he looked to use his raw dribbling and running power whenever possible. After receiving the ball, he would often explode into central channels by cutting inside on his left foot and then looking for shot opportunities from distance. These were some of Italy’s brightest moments in the match, and the Juve winger continued to cut inside even after switching over to the left. Once Cristante came onto the field he also made intelligent decisions on the ball and understood his role in shuffling with the play and pulling Declan Rice away from Italy’s build-up. This started to open up more space for Insigne to roam and get on the ball in dangerous areas, and although sometimes the Napoli man was too quick to shoot, he looked like one of Italy’s more dangerous players nonetheless.
Italy’s goal eventually came from a set-piece, through sheer strength and desire, rather than the classy orchestra that has dominated the Italian music sheets throughout the tournament.
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Out of possession is where both teams shined in this highly contested affair, particularly Italy, who completely stunted everything about England after the thirty minute mark. Italy floated in between pressing high and blocking high, ramping up their press in wide areas in particular. Both their high press and high block involved Barella stepping up on Rice, and Jorginho trying his best to track the movement of Harry Kane. We say trying his best, as this was far and away Italy’s toughest task to accomplish over the course of the opening forty-five. In transition, Jorginho was often too quick to drop alongside the back-line, leaving space for Kane to roam into as the wingers and Trippier sprinted in behind. Other times Bonucci would try and follow him into midfield, and then retreat after failing to stop the Tottenham star from receiving the ball.Embed from Getty Images
Eventually, Italy found their feet through improved possession and dominance over the game. This naturally allowed for greater defensive stability, as we often spoke about in our Premier League Tactics Ebook. Beyond that, when England would break quickly, Italy would often resort to fouling and breaking up play as soon as they could by getting stuck into tackles. In the second half they played like a pack of wolves, but a pack of wolves who wanted to stop England through metaphorical biting and clawing of the England attackers instead of genuine attempts to win the ball. These attempts to batter and bruise England generally worked, and the referee’s lenience with his cards certainly helped for this approach to continue. In fact, England were rarely able to progress towards Italy’s goal and Player of the Tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma due to this robustness. In the few moments where that became possible, Bonucci and Chiellini were excellent in blocking whatever came their way, and then winning battles on subsequent corners and free kicks.
england – 3-4-3
England surprised some by setting up in a 3-4-3 formation, utilizing Kieran Trippier in front of Kyle Walker and Mason Mount as one of the two wingers. The formational change worked instantly with both wing-backs combining for the goal, and Gareth Southgate might have been too quick in moving away from it in the second half. After Italy’s goal, Bukayo Saka entered the frame for Kieran Trippier, as England switched to a 4-3-3. The change didn’t work, but perhaps it could have had Southgate introduced someone with genuine world class quality like Sancho or Grealish. He opted for the 19-year-old instead, who took a bit of time to get going in the match. Nonetheless, Southgate’s initial decision to start with a 3-4-3 seemed a good one, especially with Luke Shaw in full flow, and combining with Harry Kane so excellently well.
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England started the match full of energy and light, with clear principles for how they wanted to break Italy down. They built out from the back on the left-side when they could, where Harry Kane would drop deep (and we mean very deep), toward Rice and Shaw. Kane would then look to switch the ball over to the right side, where Kieran Trippier was often able to find himself in acres of space due to Emerson’s inclination to follow Mount’s movement inside. This is exactly how England then scored the opening goal. As the ball came out from Shaw to Kane to Trippier, Kyle Walker made an intelligent, surging run forward on the overlap. This pulled Emerson away again, and allowed Trippier just a second longer to cross the ball into the box and find the rampaging Shaw. England used this approach to great effect moments later, but this time to no avail. As Italy grew into the game and regained more control, England were then unable to use their possession for anything as fruitful again. Southgate took Trippier off hoping 19-year-old Saka would provide something different, but this only opened up more time and space for Italy to control the game.
The only other times that England were able to progress nicely in possession were when they worked the ball around between Stones, Maguire and Pickford, and then eventually found the angle to progress vertically from Stones into Sterling, Mount or Phillips, who would drift into that space on the right half-space. But unfortunately for England as a whole, they too struggled to be particularly progressive with their possession, and Italy’s tactical tweaks made it difficult for them to get a foothold in the game and progress past the Italian warriors Chiellini and Bonucci.
out of possessionEmbed from Getty Images
Out of possession, England were more impressive. Gareth Southgate has sometimes been criticized for an over-defensive “negative” approach, and that could certainly be argued of him in this final. After the Three Lions went a goal up, they slowed their tempo, sat back, and eventually conceded a goal from a set-piece. But other than that one set-piece goal, England limited Italy to very few half-chances, most of which were from outside the eighteen. Kalvin Phillips was excellent in stepping up to stop Marco Verratti from getting on the ball and/or progressing forward after receiving. The PSG midfielder had one of his more anonymous games at the tournament, and he was not alone in that. Trippier performed well to limit Emerson’s ability to attack forward down Italy’s left, while Harry Maguire and John Stones never let Ciro Immobile have a sniff of the ball.Embed from Getty Images
England too floated between a high press and a high block, and played with a particular defensive intensity in the first half when everything was going oh so swimmingly for them. Kalvin Phillips again was the man stepping up to form that diamond shape in the press high up the pitch, alongside Kane, Mount and Sterling who looked to condense the field and force Italy backwards. England were quite successful in limiting Italy’s ability to progress vertically and centrally, and Bonucci often responded with longer passes (which he completed a solid 9/18). The structure of this diamond press could have allowed space in behind Phillips’ central midfield position, for someone like Immobile or Insigne to move into. The back-line were not always stepping up together with the rest of the team, and so Rice theoretically had too much to cover in behind. But that never really happened for Italy with their movement, and they preferred safe passes and patient possession instead.
Lower on the field, England were compact as per usual, operating in a 5-4-1 block. They left no space for Italy to progress centrally, and constantly forced the Italians to go around them. But due to Italy’s inclinations to go down the left with Insigne and Emerson, Kieran Trippier often held a more wide position within that 5-4-1, as the one player not as compact with the rest. This then limited Italy’s ability to switch play, and Insigne only made it easier for England with his drifting toward central pockets. When England changed to a 4-3-3 and took Kieran Trippier off, that defensive shape still remained compact in a sort of 4-5-1 or 4-4-2, with Sterling sometimes helping Kane from the front.
On the whole, England defended well. They were a bit of a mess from the set-piece in missing the chance to clear the ball away several times. But other than that, it was another positive England defensive performance. Unfortunately, their attack let them down, and they eventually lost.
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The Euro 2020 final between England and Italy was nothing short of a tactical battle of wits, and did not disappoint. On the day, the better team took the crown and won on penalties, but both teams should be commended for their efforts not only in this match, but throughout the tournament. That said, their could only be one winner, and we must give special congratulations to Italy for winning this summer’s 2020 European Championships.
So there it is! A tactical analysis of the final between England and Italy at Euro 2020! Be sure to check out our analyses of England, and Italy at the tournament as a whole, and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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