WEDNESDAY'S BIG STORIES

Italy are class

Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup on two occasions: 1958 and 2018. It is, therefore, not too far a stretch to say Italy were in disarray coming into qualifying for these Euros.
Liga
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They finished second behind - you guessed it - Spain in Group G in 2018 World Cup qualifying, and then were knocked out by Sweden - the host nation of the 1958 tournament, for fans of narratives - at the play-off stage.
After that debacle, Gian Piero Ventura left his role as manager in November and Roberto Mancini stepped into the breach some seven months later in May 2018. They qualified from Group J for Euro 2020 with 10 wins from 10 and also won their Nations League group to qualify for the finals tournament.
They last lost a game of association football in September 2018 against Portugal. Mancini had done a remarkable job which has seen his contract extended to 2026.
Italy were a farce under Ventura - falling to their lowest ever FIFA world ranking in the wake of his tenure (21) - but are now in the final of Euro 2020 after beating Spain on penalties.
Whomever they play in the final, they will surely go in as favourites given they have played the best football and have also shown an ability to grind out results in the matches against Austria and Spain. It has been a remarkable turnaround.

Mancini praises 'wonderful' Spain after Italy reach Euro 2020 final

'Gareth Bale set to retire from club football - but will keep playing for Wales'

One of the all-time great, if rather misleading, headlines from the Mirror there.
It is accurate, but only partially so. This reports says that Gareth Bale will retire from club football next season - when his 600,000-per-week contract expires at Real Madrid.
However, he will play for Wales at the World Cup, which is only a matter of months later. This is, of course, contingent on Wales qualifying. They currently sit third In Group E after two games on three points, with the Czech Republic and Belgium ahead of them.
If the report is true it will mean that Bale will retire from club football at the ripe old age of 32, which seems premature for a player who showed an aptitude for a deep-lying playmaker role during Wales' stint at Euro 2020.

Gareth Bale

Image credit: Getty Images

England: Genuinely a great bunch of lads

Gareth Southgate and his England squad are, regardless of sporting success, likable and, by extension, aspirational. And that is enough.
They may win Euro 2020, they may not. However, it is the example that they set, have set and continue to set that makes this a great English team. Winning the Euros will just garnish it.
On Tuesday, some players took it upon themselves to reset the equilibrium by posting supportive messages to British tennis star Emma Raducanu. This followed some pretty deplorable behaviour by some areas of the media that should - and indeed probably do - know better.

IN OTHER NEWS

Kasper Schmeichel dropping technicalities

Kasper Schmeichel is technically spot on here. Football has, when framed by the Euros, never, in fact, come home.
The beauty of this video is not the quip - which is great - it is the closing of the eyes and the sigh ahead of said barb. He has no time for this coming home gibberish, ironic or otherwise.

HAT-TIP

The Independent's Miguel Delaney profiled Italy ahead of the semi-final - it is still relevant and provides great insight into this Italy team.
A net effect has been Italy introducing all the core elements of the Spanish approach into their coaching infrastructure. Their underage teams are developed on four defining principles, called C-A-R-P. These are Costruzione, which is build-up play; Ampiezza, which is width; Rifinitura, which is creative play between the lines and in the final third; and Profondita, which is basically depth, or the space in behind. As can be seen from the very descriptions, modern Italian teams are coached to play with much more depth. We are way past being defence-based. The results have been a series of underage medals even as the senior side has struggled, but now a squad seizing Euro 2020 as the team of the tournament.

COMING UP

It is the big one: England-Denmark.
Bringing the fallout to that, erm, home is Andi Thomas. Also a great lad.
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