Especially when a title is at stake, winning half the battle is getting into your opponents’ heads and Italy just seem to have done so. Every pre-game analysis I’ve seen is focused on how to stop the Italians, rather than how to break them down. This might be the first time in football history that before a decisive game against la Squadra Azzura, the opponents are rather afraid of their attacking prowess and not concerned too much about finding ways to go past a formidable defense. This game is Italy’s to lose, it seems.
For all the plaudits Mancini got lately, his lacking of a Plan B was apparent in the game against Spain. Truth been told, dropping Morata and leaving Bonucci and Chiellini chasing Olmo’s shadow was Luis Enrique’s brilliant last-minute tweak that allowed Spain to dominate the game, but Mancini took what seemed to be forever until dropping Immobile and, should the Spaniards have been more composed in front of the goal, the Italians would;ve watched today’s game on TV. However, Mancini is way more experienced and successful than Southgate, so a surprise might be on the cards.
I am quite sure Southgate will line up the same eleven that won access to the Final, trying to shut down Italy’s left flank with Saka and Walker and tasking Rice and Philips to shut down Barella and Verrati’s runs in the half space, while Mount will try shadowing Jorginho. This seems like a balanced way of containing Italy but poses a question indicative for how the English see themselves as underdogs: who will take the game to Donnarruma’s goal? The men behind the Mount-Sterling, Saka-Kane rhombus are just about as creative and technically proficient as Sturaro and Padoin. They simply lack the quality to trouble our defence.
Considering everything I said above, I believe there’s a chance Italy will drop deep, relying on our defensive pedigree against an English side devoid of multiple attacking weapons and trying to take advantage of Chiesa’s and Immobile’s speed. And, while the English roster has immense quality in attack, they simply don’t have the allrounders in the midfield, players capable of changing the game in BOTH attack and defense. Also, any in-game substitutions will likely involve Grealish, Fodden or Sancho and all three are wide players, rather ineffectual at changing the situation in the middle of the park. Henderson seems to be the only English midfielder capable of feeding the ball through the lines, but he lacks the pace to be considered a safe shield in front of the defense. Also, by sitting deep, Italy would deny the wide English players their big weapon: the speed. It remains to be seen, I guess, how willing would Mancini be to alter his winning tactics.