SATURDAY’S HEADLINES

ITALY HAVE HEART, FIGHT AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, MAGIC

Good lord this Italy team is all sorts of fun. It’s not just that they’re fun, because they are that in absolute spades. It’s that they make you buy in, you can’t help but to will them on.
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There’s Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, the two war-horses at the back. Jorginho and Marco Verratti, tenacious as bulldogs and as graceful as ballerinas at the same time. Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa, fleet of foot and capable of anything. From the sidelines Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli, suave sophisticated, and capable of becoming as giddy as schoolchildren when they see their team score.
From back to front it is practically impossible to not get carried away and want to paint your chest green, white and red.
At the heart of it all, is Nicolo Barella.

MUNICH, GERMANY - JULY 02: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Lorenzo Insigne of Italy celebrates after scoring his team's second goal with Nicolo Barella of Italy during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Quarter-final match between Belgium and Italy at Football Arena Muni

Image credit: Getty Images

Plenty might only be discovering the diminutive midfielder for the first time, but make no mistake he is here to stay. Barella has the aggressiveness and ball-playing of his two midfield partners, but he also has the pure ingenuity and sense of inventiveness of the players in front of him, he really is one of the most complete midfielders in the world. The scary thing is that he is still only 24 years of age.
Credit to Mancini for figuring out a way to get the best out of his midfield wizards. People wondered whether they might get found out against tougher midfields, but that has not been the case so far. Yes they are small, but they make sure you know you’re in a fight.
If we’ve learnt one thing from this tournament, it’s the importance of team spirit. Italy have that in abundance. Much was made of the instructions being given by Jordan Henderson before he was brought on against Germany but the Italians are doing the same thing, you can see the substitutes shouting and gesticulating on various tactical points to help out Mancini and Vialli.
To be where they are now, after being where they were when Mancini first took over is absolutely remarkable. It is incredible to see the work done by Mancini and Vialli as well as the collective buy-in by every single member of the squad. Italy’s heart and passion has always been unrivalled, they’ve finally got that delicate spark back that was so key in 2006. Can it take them all the way this year?

GOALKEEPERS UNION REPRESENT!

One thing that irritates the Warm-Up no end is pundits giving lazy assessments of goalkeepers. It happens more for that position than any ever. When someone like say Lee Dixon, for example, talks about full-backs and the intricacies of defending in that role it genuinely fascinating. However when he talks about goalkeeping it is frustrating and frankly, a waste of everyone’s time.
That’s why we feel it’s important to note here just how important the goalkeepers were during Spain’s penalty shoot-out win over Switzerland. Unai Simon, who of horrendous own-goal fame, took the plaudits as he saved two in the shoot-out, but the only reasons that the two teams even got there in the first place was thanks to the heroics of Yann Sommer.
Sommer made ten saves, the most of any game of Euro 2020, and was imperious in keeping Spain out. He had to be, given Switzerland had to play for 43 minutes with ten men. Sure some of the saves were routine, but some were genuinely excellent. Made even more impressive given how tired he will have been mentally after having played in a shoot-out a few days ago, something that most pundits wouldn’t acknowledge.

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 02: Yann Sommer of Switzerland makes a save during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Quarter-final match between Switzerland and Spain at Saint Petersburg Stadium on July 02, 2021 in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Image credit: Getty Images

Sommer has a shout at being one if the most underrated players in the world. He has consistently been one of the best keepers in Germany, yet he has never been given the chance to move to a club who is consistently in the Champions League.
But he shows how much a great goalkeeper can help a team. Of course Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri have been critical for the Swiss, but they are a team who are built on the foundation of their rock-solid goalkeeper.
And given the importance to goalkeepers of the mental side of the game it was nice to see Spain’s faith in Simon pay off. The error against Croatia was a horrible aberration from a player who has been largely pretty good this season. After that error Luis Enrique and the rest of the Spain players backed Simon, and he rewarded them with two critical saves. Say what you like about this Spain team but they, unlike others, understand the importance of team spirit.
And if you needed any proof on the existence of the goalkeeper’s union, here’s what Simon said when he was given the Man of the Match award.
“Honestly? I’d have given it to Yann Sommer.”

CONTRACTS ARE FOR LOSERS

What might have got lost in the news after two exciting games was that Chelsea announce that Emma Hayes had signed a new contract.
What was interesting about this, aside from the sad reality that we will have to wait to have Hayes as a permanent pundit on TV, was a report from The Telegraph.
The report from Tom Garry says that there is no end point in Hayes' new contract, she is essentially on a permanent deal for the forseeable future.
Now there are certainly some legal questions that people smarter than us can answer but this is a level of commitment to a manager we haven't seen since one Alan Pardew. We suspect this one might turn out better than Pards. We can only think of the contract offered to Barcelona legend Andres Ineista as a comparable situation.
Hayes has won four WSL titles as well as two FA Cups and this season led Chelsea to their first ever Champions League final. She has overseen the development of some of the game's best players and is a serial, and relentless winner.
She has been at the London club since 2012, in the same time the men's team has had eight different managers, as well as Steve Holland as a caretaker. People may associate Chelsea as a chaotic club but that is to do a disservice to Hayes, who has brought immense stability to the women's side.
You cannot underestimate the pull of Hayes. it is a huge deal for a club like Chelsea to bring in a player like Sam Kerr for example, Hayes is one of the big reasons for that being possible.
This season was the first team an English club had reached the European showpiece since 2007, when became the first team to do so and won it, beating Umea IK 1-0 over two legs. If you were going to bet on any team to do it, you'd say that it would be Chelsea and Hayes.

IN OTHER NEWS

COME TO BESIKTAS!
Okay so the Warm-Up might be a little too obsessed with that gloriously viral social media campaign from Turkish giants Besiktas in 2017, but we do get excited when a big name might be moving to Istanbul.
Reports in Turkey suggest that a contract has been offered and Costa is now weighing up the offer. You know that he would absolutely fall in love with the Turkish fans, and they with him. Please football gods, please make this happen.

HAT-TIP

What a sight. An Asian nurse and an African prince cheering on their European son. The family’s mutual bond through music must make game night a blast in their house.
This, from Clinton Yates at The Undefeated, on the globalisation (and more) that is on show at Euro 2020, is excellent and very thought-provoking.

RETRO CORNER

The Warm-Up is a little sick of talking about England so we’re going to look at the other quarter-final going on, Denmark v Czech Republic. These teams actually met at this stage, 17 years ago. It was one hell of a match and, incredibly, the Czech FA has uploaded the full match for you to enjoy.
And while you’re watching that, why not peruse over our exclusive with one of the stars of that team, Tomas Rosicky, from before the tournament.

COMING UP

Sadly due to quarantine restrictions Marcus Foley won’t be going to Rome after watching England’s previous four games at Wembley. However thankfully he’s working overtime to bring you all the news from that match on Sunday morning as well as Denmark v Czech Republic
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