ITALY vs ENGLAND
Sunday July 11th, 8pm
Italy @ 21/10
Draw @ 2/1
England @ 8/5
I started covering England on the radio during Alf Ramsey’s tenure, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen England in a major final. It’s quite an event in my life and it’s come at a really opportune time where I can relax and enjoy it.
The camaraderie between the supporters was something completely new to me. Believe it or not, I’d never sat with the fans like that before and it was something entirely thrilling to be a part of. I was there singing and chanting the whole way through and I am hoping to be doing the same in the Final.
First off, I really do think England will win. Not comfortably but perhaps after extra time. The togetherness about Southgate’s squad and how everybody in the team knows their job fills me with belief. They don’t get distracted or demoralised if another team scores first. They’ve proved they can come from behind. They can play on the front foot. They can do it all, and they’re brimming with confidence after Wednesday’s heroics.
It merely underlines what I’ve thought the whole way along. They’ve been favourites since the start and they’ve now fulfilled that reputation. They have been the better side in every match. Gareth has picked the right teams, got it spot on with his tactical substitutions and there have been no injuries to speak of.
Everything has gone their way and I fully expect that to continue this Sunday. I’ve got England as favourites against Italy although it certainly won’t be easy. They will put up a tremendous fight and are sure to have plenty of passionate Italian fans in the crowd willing on their supremely talented team.
For starters, we’ll have to find a way to get past their two stalwart centre backs, Chiellini and Bonucci. Then at the back, find a way to repel the likes of Immobile, Insigne and Chiesa. Not to mention their world-class midfield trio of Verratti, Jorginho and Locatelli – all of whom can control the tempo of the match. It’s not a typical Italian team who just sit back and defend. They will really look to have a go at England – it won’t be boring.
On the England side, Raheem Sterling has undoubtedly been the best player. He’s been a severe threat every time he’s been on the ball and outshone even our talisman, Harry Kane. Another outstanding performer has been Luke Shaw, who’s really surprised me. I never imagined he’d be quite so influential, nor even tie down the left back spot so convincingly ahead of Ben Chilwell.
He’s arguably been our most creative player, ahead of the likes of Foden and Grealish, who Southgate has used intelligently in short bursts. He’s brought them on when we’ve needed a bit of a lift, and equally he’s not been afraid to leave them out.
In fact, that’s what’s impressed me most about Gareth – how he’s used the breadth and depth of his whole squad. He’s never picked a player purely on reputation nor stuck with a player if he thinks there’s a better alternative.
For the final, I wouldn’t make many changes – and neither will Southgate. He may just make a tweak here or there, but everyone played so well against Denmark – I can’t see why you drop any of them. I just feel full of hope and belief that they will pull it off.