Euro 2020, Italy vs England final: David James assesses how 60,000-strong Wembley crowd may affect Mancini's tactics | Football News - Hindustan Times

Euro 2020, Italy vs England final: David James assesses how 60,000-strong Wembley crowd may affect Mancini's tactics

ByKaran Prashant Saxena, New Delhi
Jul 11, 2021 10:52 PM IST

One of the big challenges for Roberto Mancini's Italy in the Euro 2020 final would be to play amid a 60,000 strong Wembley crowd in London against England, feels former goalkeeper David James.

One of the big challenges for Roberto Mancini's Italy in the Euro 2020 final would be to play amid a 60,000 strong Wembley crowd in London against England. With their home team playing to win their first Euro trophy, the England fans are certainly going to be loud, excited, and can almost be the 11th man on the field for Gareth's Southgate team.

Former England goal-keeper David James. (Getty Images)
Former England goal-keeper David James. (Getty Images)

While there will be sections of Italian fans in the stadium, their numbers might not be enough to silence the London crowd, with Covid travel restrictions in place. So, Mancini may have to devise a tactic to silence the crowd, to get momentum on his side in the match.

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While one of the ways to do that would be to score an early goal, another way was shown by Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final against England where they kept the possession and kept the Three Lions in their half for the majority of the first half. So could Mancini employ a similar strategy in the final on Sunday?

"Having watched Italy's semi-final (against Spain), I would argue whatever tactics Mancini had were going out the window. Italy's ball retention was so bad. I had not seen Italy play that bad. I was watching that game at the stadium with Fabio Capello, we talked about the fact that Italy kept giving the ball away. One of Italy's strengths and enjoyments is defending. I know it's sort of a cliche, but it looks like they have no problem in defending. They are quite happy doing it," former England goalkeeper David James said when asked about the same during a media interaction before the Euro 2020 final organised by Sony Sports Network.

"But in that case, tactically, you are relying on - my favourite Italian player beyond Donnarumma, that is Chiesa - and Chiesa has been superb in his finishing. But it has to be different going up against England. I'd be interested to know if Mancini would look at the Denmark game, because it was England's toughest game. Not because it went to Extra Time, but because they stopped England from progressing a lot, especially in the first half, which obviously, in the end, took a lot of energy," James explained.

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"I think the big issue for Mancini would be whether he has got the squad to pick from, losing key players. They have got great replacements of course. But it would be interesting to see if he stops England from playing. Because if he does not, and he plays England as they played against Spain, this England crowd would be absolutely behind them," he stressed further.

"One thing that Spain did not do is get away enough shots. They kept the ball, they looked fantastic, but the end product was lagging till Morata came on.

"But with England, if they keep that much possession around the edge of the box, we got plenty of players who would not mind shooting, and as football fans we know if the shot goes close, it's worth cheering about. It will be an interesting tactical decision from Mancini, but what he is going to do, I cannot say for sure," James said.

As James mentioned above, one of Italy's biggest strengths has been their veteran defensive duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, who both continue to defy their age in Euro 2020. Several teams have tried to go past Italy's defensive wall using young, fast-paced wingers, but Bonucci and Chiellini have looked untroubled for most of the Euros, barring the one game against Spain, where they were tired out by Spain's tiki-taka display.

So would it be better for England to infuse more youth in the team in the final, and give starts to Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho on Sunday? Southgate said that while it would be a strategy in Southgate's mind, he is unsure what the England boss would do in the end.

"One thing Gareth has done he has changed his team to suit the opposition. Not only personnel, but with the set-up, tactics, and for me to see, yeah, it's easy. But at the same time, you have two defenders who are very seasoned, very capable, and I am sure very managers would have thought they would get better off them by putting fast, tricky players against them. But they play top-flight better and they are very capable of dealing with that. They read the game so well, which is the other thing, so getting balls to players to take them on is quite difficult like we saw in the game against Spain.

"However, Sancho, when he started the game the other day, he was so phenomenal. Phil Foden, when he came on, he was at the level that Manchester City fans would want him to be. So, it's a headache definitely that Gareth Southgate would have. His selections have been spot on so far. So, it's not up to me to answer that one," James said.

This would be England's first Euros final - but the celebrations have been surrounded by the air of negativity over the potentially dubious penalty call in the semi-final against Denmark where the critics have complained that Raheem Sterling took a dive in the box. Southgate, though, believes that the controversy has, in no way, affected the celebrations in England.

"I was at the game in Wembley for the semi-finals, but I have not seen any footage or videos after the match, which would give me a clear assessment of what went down. So, I can only base my judgement on it from how the decision making has been throughout this Euro 2020 from the referees, and I think it's been phenomenal. The VAR would have made a call to change if they felt the referee's decision making has a clear error. But they have not, so I would feel there must be a reason behind that," he said.

"Regarding the celebrations, it did not affect any which way. I was in London, the crowds had gathered, people are excited. They keep asking me for tickets for the final (laughs). So, yeah, there is a lot of buzz and a lot of excitement regarding the final."

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    Karan Prashant Saxena is a reporter/writer/editor, who specialises in sports. His primary areas of interest include football, Olympics sports, and pro-wrestling. When not working, Karan spends his time reading, travelling, and pondering on the question - What If?

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