England's long ball approach cost them Euro 2020 final against Italy, Uefa analysis finds

·3-min read
Players of Italy celebrate following victory in the penalty shoot out as players of England look dejected during the UEFA Euro 2020 final - Getty Images
Players of Italy celebrate following victory in the penalty shoot out as players of England look dejected during the UEFA Euro 2020 final - Getty Images

England's second-half long ball tactics in the Euro 2020 final have been cited by Uefa analysts as a key reason for them failing to win the trophy.

A comprehensive study of each match at the tournament found Italy's Jorginho played 98 passes after half-time - more than the combined total of England's midfield.

"Finals are often decided by small details," concluded Gines Melendez, the coach behind Spain’s previously successful under-20 and under-19 teams. He suggested a switch to direct approach tactics from Gareth Southgate was undone by the experience of Jorginho and "warriors" Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

"I think that the decisive element was that Jorginho, Chiellini and Bonucci are players with a whole heap of experience," he added. "In my opinion, the experience of those Italy players came out on top, against the youth of England."

There had been praise for Southgate's tactics at the start of the match, which saw England take an early lead. Packie Bonner, the former Ireland goalkeeper who is now a Uefa technical panel member, wrote in the report: "I looked at my notes and after 17 minutes, I hadn't written a word about Italy. It was all about England - they were tactically excellent getting deep into the wide areas with Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount finding pockets of space and giving the Italy defenders plenty to think about."

Uefa's 55 page "Technical Report" adds that Italy manager Roberto Mancini "obviously made a good team talk at half time because the game changed totally". "Their positional play was much better and Jorginho was able to get on the ball and become the absolute leader on the pitch," it added.

Leonardo Bonucci of Italy celebrates with The Henri Delaunay Trophy - Getty Images
Leonardo Bonucci of Italy celebrates with The Henri Delaunay Trophy - Getty Images

England, the Uefa analysis added, "retreated into an ever deeper defensive block" and "Italy controlled the ball with enough comfort to record their lowest average passing distance of the tournament - 15.3 metres - and total twice as many passes as England".

"The result was a second half when England no longer exerting energetic high pressure", which "gave Italy's midfield trio the time and space they needed to take a stranglehold".

Jorginho then became “the absolute leader on the pitch” while England’s “aerial bombardment did little to perturb the warriors Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci”, the report added.

England’s share of possession dropped to 35 per cent, their lowest of the tournament, before Southgate’s men eventually lost on penalties.

“When you use wing backs, you need to play out from the back and have a good share of possession,” added Bonner. “When England started to give away possession they started to lose control of the game.

“When Jordan Pickford felt obliged to play it long, the wing backs found it difficult to get into attacking mode and [Harry] Kane was losing the ball in the air instead of being able to drop deep and receive along the ground.”

The report also praises Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy’s goalkeeper, for his three saves in the shootout. Peter Rudbaek, Denmark’s technical director, said: “In five years’ time, if I close my eyes and think back to this tournament, I’m sure I will recall that Italy won because they had a very good goalkeeper and two very, very experienced stoppers. Those two guys were the fathers of the team.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting