ROUTE TO WEMBLEY: How Italy reached EURO 2020 final
PA Nick Potts
Italy are the team standing between England and the EURO 2020 trophy as the two clash at Wembley on Sunday in the final of the tournament.
The Italians come into the game in the midst of a 33 game unbeaten streak that started in 2018.
Portugal beat Italy in the UEFA Nations League back in September that year and Roberto Mancini's side haven't lost since.
Before they drew 1-1 with Spain in the last round, they'd won 13 in a row. That run started with a 4-0 win over Estonia.
Italy have drawn with Holland, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal and Ukraine during this unbeaten run.
Their biggest win came in a 9-1 hammering of Armenia in Palermo in November 2019.
Mancini's side put 11 goals past Liechtenstein in two games during qualifying for the tournament and beat San Marino 7-0 in a warmup game in late May.
At the start of the tournament, Italy won all three group games without conceding a goal - including consecutive back-to-back 3-0 wins over Turkey and Switzerland.
That 3-0 win over Turkey kicked off the tournament on the Friday night and had everyone's attention immediately.
With a much-rotated side due to already confirming qualification, they beat Wales 1-0 in Rome to secure top spot of Group A.
Next up for Roberto Mancini's men were Austria who gave them a much sterner test than expected at Wembley.
It took two extra-time goals from Matteo Pessina and first Federico Chiesa to fire them into the quarter final.
Austria thought they had gone ahead in the second half but Marko Arnautovic's header was ruled out by VAR.
A late goal from Sasa Kalajdzic made it a nervy end to the game which Italy eventually advanced from.
The number one ranked team in world football came next as Belgium were their opponents.
Without Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne starting from the bench, Italy struck twice to put themselves in pole position for Wembley.
De Bruyne would be introduced in the second half but the resolute Italians held on to face Spain in the semi-final.
Much of the success for Italy in reaching the EURO 2020 final has come from the tactical flexibility Roberto Mancini has shown.
In the early games, they dominated games and looked the better side.
Even against Belgium, the Italians were just as fluid and offensive as their much-lauded opponents. However, the Italian tradition of defensive football also plays a big part in this Italy team.
Against Spain, they sat back and struck on the counterattack. For Chiesa's goal in that game, it took just 13 seconds to go from Gianluigi Donnarumma to the back of the Spanish net.
They can do it all, which makes life were very difficult for Gareth Southgate's England in terms of preparation.
Italy will expect England's early onslaught in the first 10 minutes and hope to strike on the counter once again.
Whereas England will have to prepare in more ways than one for the Italians and it will be up to Southgate to identify their style of play early. Adaptability will be key.
Whatever the result, the two best teams in the tournament have reached the final and it should be a fascinating game of football.
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