Italy 1-1 England (AET) – Player ratings and analysis: Valiant England overawed by streetwise, astute Italy
England lost to Italy on penalties against Italy in the final of Euro 2020 at Wembley. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed the decisive kicks for a young England side. However, this should be the start of a cycle for this Three Lions team, with Italy a decent benchmark for them moving forward.
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The Three Lions answered nearly every question that had been posed of them this tournament. Having come from behind to win in extra-time against Denmark there was one question left: how would they react to taking an early lead.
The answer? Okay. They ceded possession to Italy but the performance did not feel panicked. England did not dominate the ball but retained their composure whenever Italy applied pressure. However, when that pressure stepped up another level again, England were left wanting, with three of Southgate's substitutes, Rashford, Sancho and Saka missing the penalties in the shootout.
It was testament to the spirit of the squad, mind, that Kalvin Phillips, Conor Coady and others made a beeline for the Arsenal man after his miss. To attribute blame to those who missed the penalties would be errant here. This was a shootout performance for the ages from Gianluigi Donnarumma, who stood up as Rashford waited for him to go down and then went early for both Sancho and Saka's efforts.
Gareth Southgate reverted to a five-at-the back system for the challenge of Italy. Kieran Trippier came in for Saka, meaning Kyle Walker dropped back to right centre-half.
The formation was nominally a 5-3-2 - certainly out of possession - but in possession, as evidenced by England's first goal, it was intended to be a 3-4-3.
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However, after a torrid opening, Emerson Palmieri settled and regained control if his flank, pushing up against Trippier and forcing England back into a back five for large periods. This allowed Italy to assert dominance of the midfield area, and it starved England and Southgate of their wont: control.
When Southgate did try to change it, it felt too late.
England had clearly earmarked Italy's left side as an area of weakness and perhaps that was the thinking behind the move to a system that employed wingbacks.
It paid dividends early on more than one occasion but as the three in defence became a five, England struggled to get any sort of foothold in central areas.
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Spain swamped Italy's midfield in their semi-final defeat and were unlucky to lose but England ceded control of that area for large swathes of the match. Italy had 66 per cent of the ball over the course of the 120 minutes and completed 90 per cent of their passes. England finished with a pass completion of 74 per cent.
However, England were resolute without being panicked and it increasingly felt like they were settling for penalties. That proved an errant decision.
Pickford - 8: The 27-year-old was a little shaky in the semi-final but was solid here and can count himself unlucky with the Italian goal as he made a fine reaction save to tip Verratti’s header on to the post. He saved two penalties in the shootout - he couldn't do much more.
Trippier - 6: The Atleti full-back justified his selection from the off delivering the cross for Shaw to score the opener. However, after a few fruitful jaunts down that flank early on, Italy closed off that channel as the game progressed and Emerson offered him constant problems.
Walker - 7 The elder statesman of the back five was caught in possession a couple of times early on but grew into the game and his ability to defend against transition was again apparent.
Stones - 7: Matches of this magnitude require composure and Stones showed that during the early exchanges as he found some direct passing lanes into England's advanced midfield three and Kane. He was solid defensively too.
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Maguire - 6: It was perhaps testament to the work of the defensive shield in front of him that it felt like he had little to do in the first half. However, Italy's withdrawn forwards played against his strengths, and he was often left with no direct opponent to engage with. His usual adroitness on the ball escaped him as the game wore on.
Shaw - 6: He scored the goal by pushing on and arriving late to set the ball rolling but was not able to maraud forward as he had done in previous matches.
Rice 8: - England's most defensively-minded midfielder covered the areas in front of the England defence diligently, restricting Italy- (initially - to efforts from distance, and then, at times, driving forward with no little skill. Remained dogged as Italy ramped up the pressure in the second half but his all-action display left him a little leggy as the game wore on, and was withdrawn.
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Phillips - 8: The 25-year-old was, according to the team sheet at least, part of - alongside Rice - a shielding two. However, just as against Denmark in the semi-final, he was given substantial licence to push on and engage Marco Verratti, which he did with relish. He has a composure that belies his relative infant international career.
Sterling - 6: This was far from his most effective performance but he was always a threat and Italy were on alert whenever he was on the ball.
Mount - 5: As resolute as ever on the defensive side of the ball and offered a threat in behind as Italy pushed further up the pitch. Ultimately ineffective, though.
Kane - 5: The Tottenham man held the ball up well at times but was well marshalled by Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini as he struggled to get into the rhythm of the game. Most of his best moments came when he dropped into midfield to dictate from deep but he failed to fashion a clear sight of goal.
Saka - 5: Replaced Trippier but suffered the same fate as Mount, Sterling in that England struggled to get him quality ball in quality areas. Missed the decisive penalty.
Henderson - 5: The Liverpool captain offered a more restrained take on the shielding role than Rice but was unable to take control of a midfield that Italy had completely swamped.
Grealish - 5: The Aston Villa player entered the fray for Mount and was bright but without creating his usual havoc.
Sancho - 5: He was introduced to take a penalty but missed it.
Rashford - 5: Brought on alongside his new Manchester United teammate and suffered the same fate.
England remain a work in progress. And a final remains progress. They began brightly, scoring early, and appeared in control - or at least not overawed - in the first half.
As the game wore on Italy became a more dominant force and, truth be told, on the balance of play were the better team and deserved to win.
This should mark the beginning of an impressive cycle for England but the next step is to become as astute and streetwise as Italy. Roberto Mancini's side started poorly but problem solved on the job, were canny where required - they dominated the ball but committed nearly double the fouls England did (22-13) and showed their mettle in the shootout.