Predicting England’s starting line-up against Italy in Euro 2020 final

In the national team’s biggest game for 55 years, will Gareth Southgate stick or twist?

Mark Critchley
Northern Football Correspondent
Saturday 10 July 2021 08:25
Euro 2020: Daily briefing

Is it coming home? England will play Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on Sunday, in what is the national team’s biggest game for 55 years.

The furious debate over who Gareth Southgate should select has gradually died down over the course of the tournament as different players staked their claim and solidified their places.

Only one or two spots in the starting line-up are really up for debate anymore, with question marks over the right-hand side of the attack and perhaps in central midfield.

Even so, Southgate is yet to name an unchanged side at this tournament. Will Sunday be the first time that he opts to stick rather than twist?

Here,The Independent attempts to predict who will start...

Jordan Pickford

England’s No 1 was enjoying an excellent tournament up until the semi-final, when he was clearly targeted by Denmark and some of the old eccentricities in his game resurfaced. There is no doubt that Pickford will start on Sunday, though a return to the calm, composed and collected goalkeeper of the earlier rounds would be welcome.

Kyle Walker

Magnificent against Denmark, Walker has developed into perhaps the best full-back in Europe at defending wide open areas of space. His speed on the cover allows England to play a higher line, knowing he provides a degree of insurance. Only concern comes when overlapped and overloaded. Ukraine had some success against him in that regard.

John Stones

Solid from day one in this tournament, particularly when the senior partner alongside Tyrone Mings at the very start. Lapses of concentration are always the concern but Stones has played in many high-pressure contests with Manchester City over the past year and come through unscathed.

Harry Maguire

Consistently excellent so far, which is all the more impressive when you consider he has only just returned from a potentially serious ankle injury. A contender for the team of the tournament, Maguire’s ability to step out and move the ball up the pitch is just as important as his rearguard action.

Luke Shaw

Hugely important to the way England play as a link between one end of the pitch and the other, and as the main channel through which defence turns into attack. Defensively impressive against Denmark but his final ball - so impressive in Rome - was a little lacking. Shaw’s low cut-back crosses from the byline are deadly when they come off, though.

Kalvin Phillips

Phillips’ place seems to be under near constant scrutiny with a fit-again Jordan Henderson looming, but the Leeds midfielder has done nothing to warrant losing his spot. Against Denmark, he grew into the contest, pressing tirelessly to wrestle control of the contest in the middle of the park.

Declan Rice

Rice similarly took a while to adjust against Denmark before settling down. He and Phillips will need to be vigilant against Italy’s midfield, which is technically superior and will enjoy much more possession than they had against Spain. If Rice can shackle Nicolo Barella while Phillips curbs Marco Verratti’s influence, England will stand an excellent chance.

Mason Mount

Beloved by his managers for his work out of possession, Mount was defensively diligent in the semi-final and though he did not always make the right choices with the ball, his four key passes were the most of any England player. Southgate’s trust in him is absolute and he will play an important role in the battle for midfield superiority if more of an ‘eight’ than a No 10.

Bukayo Saka

The most fiercely-contested spot in the line-up, though it would not be surprising to see Saka keep his place in an unchanged XI. The Arsenal youngster was quiet to begin with against Denmark but came alive after England went behind. His defensive nous will help if Italy focus attacks down their left, as they did when Leonardo Spinazzola was fit to play. A second-half change for Jack Grealish, Phil Foden or Jadon Sancho feels likely.

Harry Kane

The semi-final was probably Kane’s best all-round performance of the summer so far, particularly in regards to his link-up play, with the instinctive pass to release Saka for the equaliser being the highlight. That missed penalty, scored on the rebound, is a bit of a concern if this final goes to a shoot-out. Here’s hoping that’s now out of his system.

Raheem Sterling

England’s stand-out player of the tournament, perhaps even the best at Euro 2020 overall. His direct running and dribbling inside the penalty area could cause Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci plenty of problems, though Italy will know not to offer him the space that he craves. A switch out to the right, against the adventurous Emerson Palmieri, might be something to consider as the evening wears on.

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