Leonardo Bonucci warns Italy to be alert to threat from England’s young attack

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Leonardo Bonucci is confident Italy’s old guard can use all of their experience to avoid being given the runaround by England’s young frontline in the final of Euro 2020 on Sunday.

Veteran Juventus duo Bonucci, 34, and Giorgio Chiellini, 36, have more than 200 caps between them, the established bedrock of Roberto Mancini’s well-drilled side which has gone unbeaten through 33 games.

England are expected to present the toughest examination yet of the Italians’ ageing central partnership, with Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane both looking to add to their tally while Arsenal’s 19-year-old winger Bukayo Saka will be hoping for another chance to impress.

Tottenham Hotspur v Juventus – UEFA Champions League – Round of 16 – Second Leg – Wembley Stadium
Giorgio Chiellini (right) played against England captain Harry Kane (left) in the Champions League at Wembley (Nick Potts/PA)

Jose Mourinho once claimed the Juve pair could give lectures on the art of defending at Harvard University, having seen them help secure a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

And Bonucci is not about to let anything distract focus from producing another masterclass alongside Chiellini to help keep England quiet in front of a partisan Wembley crowd.

“It is the youngsters versus the veterans,” Bonucci said at a press conference from Italy’s training base in Coverciano, Florence on Friday.

“The English forwards are very strong and are great players, so the whole team must be very cautious in our defence.

“We know how they can bring difficulties for us, so we will need to pay a lot of attention to the pace and quickness of their forwards like Harry Kane and the others.”

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Bonucci added: “On Sunday we will have great players in the one-on-ones, but I am very confident because all of our players will give 100 per cent to bring something historic home.”

Kane’s sights are set on the Golden Boot having taken his goal tally to four on Tuesday night when the England captain tucked home a rebound after his extra-time penalty was saved by Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Bonucci said: “Harry Kane is a very famous player, he has been doing very well at Tottenham and for the national team.

“In these latest three matches (at Euro 2020) we have had the chance of meeting three of the best forwards in the world.

“The result for us will again be to do better and not concede anything in any moment of the game.”

Czech Republic v England – UEFA Euro 2020 – Group D – Wembley Stadium
Harry Maguire (left) and John Stones (right) have impressed at the heart of England’s defence (Mike Egerton/PA)

Bonucci has been impressed by England’s own defensive record at Euro 2020, with Gareth Southgate’s side having only conceded one goal after coming from behind to beat Denmark 2-1 in their semi-final.

“They have conceded very few shots, have two great players like (Harry) Maguire and (John) Stones, who made Manchester United and Manchester City great,” he said.

“We will need to be very smart to score through this defence.”

Italy edged out Spain on penalties in their semi-final after it finished 1-1 following extra time.

While there is sure to be plenty of Azzurri blue back at Wembley on Sunday, they will be outnumbered by expectant England fans.

Italy’s Jorginho celebrates scoring the winning penalty in the semi-final against Spain at Wembley
Italy fans were at Wembley to see their penalty shoot-out win over Spain in the semi-final (Nick Potts/PA)

Bonucci said: “We will be playing at their home but we are not afraid of that.

“We are looking forward to going to Wembley on Sunday, even though we will have a mostly English crowd.

“But being there will be additional motivation for us because we want to achieve something historical and will do everything we can to play a great match, then we will see what the final result will be.”

Former Manchester City boss Mancini has transformed the Azzurri since taking charge following the disappointment of their failure to reach the 2018 World Cup.

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Bonucci said: “First of all he worked on our mentality, he gave us confidence back, restored our self-esteem and enthusiasm.

“He made us believe what he wanted was the best way and the right way. He selected talent and quality, which is what makes you win in football.

“Playing with a lot of talent in the middle of the pitch makes everything easy, and that is what we have been doing for the past three years.”

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