Euros final: Time to seize moment in what really is England’s biggest test

·2-min read
Euros final: Time to seize moment in what really is England’s biggest test

Every stage of England's European Championship has been presented, in one way or another, as the truest test for Gareth Southgate's side.

The last-16 tie against Germany was the chance to end 55 years of hurt against an old footballing enemy and finally banish spectres of the past — not least given Southgate's painful history in the fixture.

The quarter-final against Ukraine, England's only away game of Euro 2020, was billed as psychological test in the very different conditions of the Stadio Olimpico.

And Wednesday's win over Denmark was the opportunity for England to end their semi-final hoodoo and break new ground by reaching a first European Championship Final.

Really, though, England are yet to scale a hurdle they were not expected to, particularly given their home advantage against Germany and Denmark.

Still, deep down many of us expected Southgate's side to have already fallen, such is the historical context of England's failures at major tournaments.

Led by Harry Kane, this group of players have broken new ground, thrown off the shackles of the past, redefined what it means to play for England and recalibrated expectations.

They have already produced the type of scenes this country has not seen since 1966 and Sunday could be one of England's greatest-ever sporting moments. The final is the players' shot at immortality, their chance to embed an occasion into the national psyche. The whole of England is with them.

The Azzurri were most people's favourites to win the Euros from the earliest stages, kicking off the tournament with a 3-0 thumping of Turkey.

After their semi-final win over Spain, it was easy to feel relieved that England would not have to face Luis Enrique's possession-masters in the final.

 (Pool via REUTERS)
(Pool via REUTERS)

That may prove to be a dangerous sentiment against an Italian side who are backed by the weight of history.

Italy have reached three European Championship Finals, albeit losing twice, and won the World Cup on four occasions.

Football often obsesses over DNA and the suggestion that certain sides are literally made of sterner stuff than others. England will have to buck that trend on Sunday.

Roberto Mancini has succeeded in building a new type of Italy team that has nonetheless retained many of the characteristics that made the Azzurri so successful in the past.

Italy lack a superstar such as Kane or Raheem Sterling, but they are gifted with technical excellence in the form of Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne and Jorginho, and the grizzled experience of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

England showed character and resilience against Denmark, but they will have to play better on Sunday against the Italians' high press and midfield passers.

As Southgate has acknowledged, we can now say with confidence that England will face their toughest examination of the tournament on Sunday.

It is time to seize the moment.

Read More

Antonio Conte tells Italy how to beat England... and keep Harry Kane quiet

England vs Italy: Gareth Southgate and Roberto Mancini look for Wembley redemption in Euros final

England vs Italy predictions: Where the Euros final will be won and lost

Euros Final news LIVE! Italy vs England latest updates and build-up

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