After a month of football, the EURO 2020 tournament comes to a conclusion on Sunday when England take on Italy at Wembley.
It’s a first major men’s tournament final in 55 years for the Three Lions as Gareth Southgate aims for a truly historic win at the national stadium, riding a huge wave of emotion and popularity in the country.
Roberto Mancini’s side have arguably been one of the teams of the tournament up to this point, with the former Man City manager steering his team to a record 33 games unbeaten ahead of the final.
While this is an international final, there will be a distinct Chelsea flavour to the game with no less than five Blues players potentially taking to the field for the game.
For England it is Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell and Reece James involved. The latter two have found minutes hard to come by during the tournament, especially Chilwell who hasn’t played a single one, while James is a backup to Kyle Walker.
Mount though is highly likely to start the biggest game for England in half a century.
For the Italians, clubmates Jorginho and Emerson should start for Mancini’s side as they target a first major trophy since their World Cup win in 2006.
Jorginho has had a very strong tournament for his country, capped off by his unbelievably cool winning penalty in the shootout victory over Spain in the semi finals.
It has been a bit different for Emerson. He has played in four of six of Italy’s matches but has started just one, the semi final.
Leonardo Spinazzola was in the conversation for player of the tournament before he suffered a devastating achilles injury in the quarter final win against Belgium, with backup Emerson thrust into the limelight.
For a man that has struggled for any meaningful game time at Chelsea – he’s only made 32 appearances in the Premier League since signing for the Blues in 2018 – it’s almost been a baptism of fire for the left back.
And it’s a key area that England could possibly exploit if they are to win at Wembley.
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The Italian’s have their two almost gold-like centre halves in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, two absolute brutes of the game who love nothing more than winning headers, making tackles and keeping clean sheets.
Then there is right back Giovanni Di Lorenzo, another player who has had a strong tournament and even named his first daughter Azzurra in a nod to his country.
Emerson played well in the semi final against Spain, getting one over on his clubmate Cesar Azpilicueta in the process but it’s England’s wings where they have shown plenty of clout.
Raheem Sterling has had a sensational tournament, while Bukayo Saka has slotted in seamlessly at international level despite his tender years. Jadon Sancho had an excellent outing in the quarters against Ukraine in place of Saka on the right hand side.
Emerson has tallied a grand total of 89 minutes of football this season for Chelsea in the Premier League so you can certainly say his legs are fresh, if you’re an Italian optimist.
The Italians certainly missed the thrust of Roma defender Spinazzola, who often finds himself in a left forward position more often than not and Spain penned in Emerson as they enjoyed 70 per cent of the possession in the early going at Wembley.
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He did get going though, as mentioned with his lung-bursting run past Azpilicueta while he also grazed the crossbar in the latter stages of the first half.
Defensively though, with such a trio as Chiellini, Bonucci and Di Lorenzo, Emerson often looked like the odd man out. To pin Italy not being quite at their best on the Chelsea man replacing Spinazzola isn’t right, it was more Spain’s midfield duo of Pedri and Sergio Busquets dictating things.
England have had good performances from their wide players throughout the tournament and with Mount likely to be pressed into service keeping Jorginho quiet, how England tackle the other Chelsea player in the opposition on Sunday could go a long way to deciding the outcome of the final.