Giorgio Chiellini warns England ‘can do damage with bursts of energy’ and Italy will rely on all their experience to neutralise that danger in the UEFA EURO 2020 Final, but assures he wasn’t playing ‘mind games’ with Spain. ‘I am enjoying every moment.’
It kicks off on Sunday at 20.00 UK time at Wembley Stadium.
The Azzurri struggled in the semi-final with Spain, winning only on penalties, but are expected to hold far more of the ball against Gareth Southgate’s men.
“England are not Spain, they have very different characteristics,” said Chiellini in his press conference.
“I think the two teams who did best in these Euros have reached the Final, you just need to look at their scorelines to see how solid and physical they are, along with individual quality in every area.
“They have the organisation that Southgate has brought forward after Euro 2016. They don’t pass the way the Spaniards do, but are strong and conceded just one goal throughout – that was a free kick.
“We’ve seen throughout the Euros that England are a team who can sit back, but they have these bursts of energy and can do damage at any moment.”
A Scottish newspaper depicted Roberto Mancini as William Wallace battling against the English, suggesting Italy will have several other nations behind them.
“It made me smile, so many vignettes we’ve seen over the last few days. Everyone knows the rivalry between England and Scotland, so it made us smile, but nothing more,” laughed Chiellini.
“You won’t get far in a Final against England at Wembley without having a fiery heart or a cool head, so we’re going to need both. We must be aggressive, sharp, brave and have the situation under control.
“It’s unthinkable to control for 90 minutes, but we have to look out for every single detail. We are all fully aware of how important this is, so what we need and the coach has been doing is to calm everything down and make sure we enjoy the moment, as we don’t know when it’ll come around again.
“We did believe we’d have a great Euros, then getting to the Final goes through some Sliding Doors moments you cannot predict, but after our victory in the friendly against the Czech Republic, we felt that air of positivity, that we were enjoying it and could do what we wanted.
“The ingredients that allowed us to get here are having a clear head, enjoyment and a little spark of madness. We then have a great chef here in Roberto Mancini who knows how to combine all the ingredients!”
There has been controversy around the fact the semi-finals and Final are all played at Wembley, with England given home advantage.
“It has happened that a team plays a Final on their home turf, it’s not the first and won’t be the last. I also heard some controversy caused by comments I made that I’d see England in the Final, but that’s because they were on the easier side of the draw after getting past Germany, but also they have a strong team! England didn’t travel much, but then we had three home games in the group phase too. I’d be more annoyed if I was Swiss, as they went from Rome to Baku to St Petersburg.”
Chiellini has spoken of his admiration for Harry Kane and even hinted he asked Juventus to sign the striker from Tottenham Hotspur.
“I still remember the first time I played against Kane, a friendly in Turin between Italy and England, and I was immediately impressed by his many different qualities. He’s good in the air, holding up the ball, with assists, scoring goals, even free kicks, so you can ask (former Juventus director Fabio) Paratici how many times I talked to him about Kane over the years!”
In the build-up to the penalty shoot-out with Spain, Chiellini seemed to psych out Jordi Alba during the coin toss with hugs, laughs and jokes to dispel the tension of the moment, but he assured it was not mind games.
“I have many games under my belt, so I am enjoying every moment of these last few years of my career. I always have a smile and respect all my opponents, so having a joke and hugging the opponents is something I usually do. I’m enjoying this tournament even more than usual, so it’s not a tactic, it’s just what I am like.
“After all these years, I’ve given and received reciprocal respect, so it’s a good rapport to have. Someone of my age can’t make too many long-term plans, I just have to take it one day at a time and enjoy it.”
Leonardo Bonucci suggested this match would be a battle between the youth of the England attack and experience of the Azzurri defence, but his Juventus and Italy teammate had a different approach.
“Kane and Sterling aren’t that young, it’s just that we are really old! They’ve got plenty of experience too. Everyone has their own characteristics. If I start a sprint race with Sterling, I doubt I’d ever beat him, but in situations where you are both going for the ball, I might get it more than him.
“I think the players on the England bench could easily have got them to the Final too, they have excellent strength in depth in attack. Fortunately, it’s a team sport and so it’s not about me against Kane or Sterling, but how the players work with each other.”