Spain Ends Italy’s Unbeaten Run, Reach Nations League final


Sapin’s teammates celebrate after wining at the end of the UEFA Nations League semifinal football match between Italy and Spain at the San Siro (Giuseppe-Meazza) stadium in Milan, on October 6, 2021. Marco BERTORELLO / POOL / AFP

 

Spain brought Italy’s record 37-match unbeaten run to an end on Wednesday with a 2-1 win to reach the Nations League final.

Ferran Torres’ first-half brace won the Final Four clash for Spain at the San Siro, where Luis Enrique’s side will face either France or Belgium in Sunday’s final.

Lorenzo Pellegrini pulled a goal back with seven minutes left but the European champions failed to complete what would have been a memorable comeback.

Italy, who beat Spain in the Euro 2020 semi-finals, had to play over half the match with 10 men after Leonardo Bonucci was sent off in the 42nd minute for elbowing Sergio Busquets in the face during an aerial challenge.


Italy’s teammate react at the end of the UEFA Nations League semifinal football match between Italy and Spain at the San Siro (Giuseppe-Meazza) stadium in Milan, on October 6, 2021.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

The match was played in a strange atmosphere as AC Milan fans in the stadium harangued Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma throughout his return to the San Siro following his move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Donnarumma, who is considered one of the world’s best goalkeepers and won the Player of the Tournament award at the Euro, left Milan as a free agent in the summer and his departure left a bad taste in the mouth of supporters who loudly booed and whistled his every touch of the ball.

World champions France take on Belgium at Juventus’ Allianz Stadium in Turin on Thursday night.

AFP

Romanian Billionaire, Seven Others Die In Plane Crash Near Milan

The Italian Flag.

 

A light aircraft piloted by Romanian billionaire Dan Petrescu crashed into an empty office building near Milan on Sunday, killing him, his wife and their son, and all five others aboard, Italian media reported. 

The single-engine Pilatus PC-12 had taken off from Milan’s Linate airport shortly after 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) headed for Olbia in the north of the Italian island of Sardinia.

It crashed just a few minutes later in San Donato Milanese, a town southeast of Milan, according to aviation agency ANSV, which has opened an investigation.

Witnesses said the plane was already in flames before it crashed into an office building undergoing renovations.

Petrescu, 68, was one of Romania’s richest men. He headed a major construction firm and owned a string of hypermarkets and malls. He also held Germany nationality, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

Corriere and the AGI news agency said Petrescu’s 65-year-old wife, who also had French nationality, and their son Dan Stefano, 30, were killed, as well as a child.

Milan Mayor Beppe Sala and his San Donato counterpart Andrea Checchi headed to the scene.

Deputy prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano was quoted by Corriere as saying that the plane’s black box had been recovered.

AFP

Juventus Win First Serie A Game Since Ronaldo’s Departure


Juventus’ Italian forward Moise Kean (C) celebrates with Juventus’ Uruguayan midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur (L) and Juventus’ Argentine forward Paulo Dybala after opening the scoring during the Italian Serie A football match between Spezia and Juventus on September 22, 2021 at the Alberto-Picco stadium in La Spezia. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

 

Juventus pulled themselves out of the Serie A relegation zone on Wednesday after earning their first league victory of the season at the fifth attempt, coming from behind to win 3-2 at Spezia. It was also their first Serie A win since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club. 

Massimiliano Allegri’s side moved up to 12th in Italy’s top flight on five points following the hard-fought win which at one point looked to be heading for an embarrassing defeat.

Emmanuel Gyasi and Janis Antiste had put Spezia ahead shortly after the break following Moise Kean’s 28th-minute opener, the Italian’s first goal for Juventus since returning from Everton.

However substitute Federico Chiesa levelled midway through the second half with his first league goal of the season and a few minutes later Matthijs de Ligt struck the winner when the ball fell kindly to him from a Paulo Dybala corner.

It was a far from convincing performance though and Spezia could have levelled late on, with Wojciech Szczesny at his best to push away Giulio Maggiore’s volley with five minutes remaining.

READ ALSO: Verona Inflict First Loss On Mourinho’s Roma


Spezia’s Ghanaian forward Emmanuel Gyasi (2ndL) celebrates after scoring an equalizer during the Italian Serie A football match between Spezia and Juventus on September 22, 2021 at the Alberto-Picco stadium in La Spezia. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

 

Juve are eight points behind league leaders Inter Milan, who could be joined on 13 by city rivals AC Milan when they host Venezia later on Wednesday.

In the other early match Salernitana earned their first point of the season when they came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home with Verona.

Nikola Kalinic put the away side ahead with a deft first-half brace but Cedric Gondo pulled one back just before half-time when the ball dropped to him following Franck Ribery’s free-kick.

Mamadou Coulibaly then struck the leveller with 14 minutes left to send a passionate home crowd wild, although the promoted outfit stay bottom of the league.

Cagliari host Empoli in Wednesday’s other late match.

AFP

 

Verona Inflict First Loss On Mourinho’s Roma


Hellas Verona players celebrate after Hellas Verona’s Italian midfielder Davide Faraoni (unseen) scored a goal during the Italian Serie A football match between Hellas Verona and AS Roma at the Marcantonio Bentegodi stadium in Verona, on September 19, 2021.
MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Roma dropped their first points in Serie A under Jose Mourinho on Sunday as Verona came from behind to earn new coach Igor Tudor a 3-2 victory on his debut.

Lorenzo Pellegrini’s clever backheel flick gave visitors Roma a half-time lead in the pouring rain as they sought a fourth successive win to start the season.

Antonin Barak equalised for Verona shortly after the interval and Gianluca Caprari put the hosts ahead with a precise finish five minutes later.

Ivan Ilic turned a Pellegrini cross into his own goal to bring Roma level before the hour, but Davide Faraoni’s brilliant volley secured the win for Verona to halt a run of three straight losses.

Roma’s city rivals Lazio needed a late goal from Danilo Cataldi to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to Cagliari.

Ciro Immobile struck for the fifth time in four games as Lazio went ahead just before the break.

Joao Pedro’s looping header pegged Lazio back right at the start of the second half, with Keita Balde then firing home against his former club to put Cagliari on top.

But the Sardinian club couldn’t hold on for victory in Walter Mazzarri’s first game in charge as Cataldi fired into the top corner seven minutes from time to rescue Lazio.

Venezia’s first Serie A home match since the 2001-02 season ended in a crushing 2-1 loss to Spezia.

Simone Bastoni curled in a sensational effort as Spezia grabbed an early lead at the Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo, an intriguing ground set on the south-eastern tip of Venice’s main archipelago.

Pietro Ceccaroni headed Venezia level on the hour but Mehdi Bourabia’s brilliant injury-time strike from distance earned Thiago Motta’s Spezia a first win.

AC Milan will attempt to bounce back from defeat in their first Champions League match since 2014 when they travel to fierce rivals Juventus later on Sunday.

Juve are trying to build on their 3-0 win at Malmo and crack Milan’s perfect start to the league campaign.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side were considered the pre-season favourites for the Scudetto but the sudden departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and only one draw to show from three matches has left them in disarray.

Juve are second from bottom and nine points behind defending champions and league leaders Inter Milan.

AFP

Vaccine Bookings Spike After Italy Extends COVID-19 Pass

FIle Photo: NARINDER NANU / AFP

 

Bookings for coronavirus vaccines in Italy spiked this week after the government said all employees must show proof of a jab, negative test or recent recovery from Covid-19, authorities said.

“On a national level, there was a generalised increase in bookings for the first dose of between 20 and 40 percent compared to last week,” coronavirus commissioner Francesco Figliuolo said in a statement late Saturday.

Reservations for the first dose of the vaccine on Saturday were up 35 percent on the same time a week earlier, he added, without giving the actual figure.

Almost 41 million people in Italy have so far been fully vaccinated, government data shows — close to 76 percent of the population over the age of 12.

But authorities remain concerned about the hold-outs ahead of the winter flu season, and this week extended the so-called “Green Pass” to all public and private workplaces.

Introduced in August initially for indoor restaurant dining, museums and sports events, the pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative Covid-19 test or recent recovery from the virus.

This week, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national unity government agreed to extend it to all workplaces from October 15, with employees who refuse to comply considered to be absent without pay.

Those exempt from the vaccine for health reasons will be given free coronavirus tests.

Italy was the first European country to face the full force of the pandemic in February 2020 and has the worst recorded death toll in the European Union, at more than 130,000.

The economy was plunged into a deep recession caused by lockdowns last year but with case numbers largely under control since the spring, growth is forecast to jump this year, aided by a huge injection of EU recovery funds.

AFP

Over 300 Nigerians Illegally Arrested, Languishing In Italian Jails – Ex-Commissioner

 

Osaze Osemwingie-Ero, a former Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs, has cried out regarding the plight of over 300 Nigerian youths ‘illegally’ detained in Italian prisons for contrived charges on mafia-related offences.

At a meeting with officials of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Mr Osemwingie-Ero disclosed that he learned about the plight of the innocent young Nigerians during his wrongful detention in Italy.

According to the former commissioner, the young Nigerians are held in Italian maximum prisons because they do not have the resources to access an independent lawyer.

He said the prosecutors in Italy were manipulating the justice system against Nigerians, adding that it became clear to him that “he was a victim of racial discrimination, and manipulation of the Italian Justice System by a very corrupt prosecutor – Dr Stephano Casano”.

Narrating briefly his ordeal in Italy, Osemwingie-Ero said when he interviewed other Nigerians who were incarcerated for charges similar to those levelled against him, it was discovered that a certain ‘Green Bible’ and forged papers that were brought up as evidence against the commissioner, was the same evidence put forward against the others in custody.

Connecting Flight…

When in 2019, Osemwingie-Ero was getting aboard a connecting flight from Amsterdam to Germany, he could never have known that his brief trip would become an odyssey of 18 months in an Italian prison, for a crime he knew nothing about.

He was to meet with Yusuf Tuggar, the then Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, and the business was simply – the Benin Artifacts Campaign.

At the airport, security operatives picked him up, and swiftly, he was accused of being a member of what the Italian prosecutors called the ‘Nigerian Mafia’.

Article 416 Bis of the Italian Criminal Code outlines what a Mafia-type organization is and the punishment for perpetrators of these kinds of crimes.
According to the former commissioner, it is upon article 416 that many Nigerians are being detained in Italy, with no solid evidence of any crime committed.

Enters then a forged manual called the Green Bible.

Osemwingie-Ero said in a bid to add flesh to their accusations, the Italians produced in court, an evidence known as the Green Bible, which has been used to convict many Nigerians, especially those who had no qualitative legal representation.

“I decided to do the long trial, where the prosecutor was compelled to bring the evidence that he had against me or against the Nigerian association. Only for him to produce a forge manual that he called the Green Bible, which they have used to convict a lot of Nigerians over 200 Nigerians in Italy,” Osemwingie-Ero narrated.

He and his lawyers thoroughly went through the Green Bible and discovered myriads of discrepancies.

“For example, page 14 of that so called Green Bible, paragraph 3 stated that ‘we the criminal organization’ involve in A-Z were there; and I told the judge that I have never seen an organization that will write in their manual that they are a criminal organization.

“On page 31, 32 and 33 of that so called Green Bible, we have a 2017 event of the communique of the Green Circuit Association in Asaba in that book while on page 51 of that so called Green Bible, it said this book was written in 1978 by University of Benin students and I said, how can we have a communique of 2017 event inside a book that was written in 1978,” the former commissioner pointed out.

Unjustly detained

Mr Osemwingie-Ero called for the collaboration of all stakeholders including the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission and the media, among others to ensure the release of Nigerians unjustly detained in Italy, some of them facing up to 140years in prison.

“While I was there on the 28th of October, 70 Nigerians were arrested for the same Mafia related offences and the only thing they showed on the television was a kitchen knife as a proof of evidence. Meanwhile, they still use this article 416 bis of the Italian Mafia Criminal Code.

“On the 26th of September while I was still in prison, 20 Nigerians were convicted and sentenced to 140years in prison, they were convicted with this same forged Green Bible, I have a copy of it, this same Green Bible was what they used, and if you google Torino Chronicle of September 26, 2020 (page 8), you will see it there clearly.

“Their appeal is coming up on the 20th of September this year, after two years in prison, maximum security in Italy. The 70 Nigerians that were arrested, their trial is starting on the 17th of September this year as well.

“I am aware because I kept interacting with them, knowing more about the case before I was released on the 29th of May.”

According to him, his release was by God’s grace, adding that it cost him a lot of money to get good legal representation which these other Nigerians do not have at the moment.

Osemwingie-Ero who said he made a promise that he was going to create awareness for the release of those innocent Nigerians, expressed disappointment in ‘the fact’ that he did not get the support that he expected from the Nigerian government.

He explained that his then boss Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State called the Minister of Foreign Affairs to notify him of the Commissioner’s arrest and nothing was done to follow up the case.

“If that could happen to me, you can imagine the fate of ordinary Nigerians?” Osemwingie-Ero asked.

Turning the focus away from his plight in Italy, the former commissioner told the Chairman/CEO of NIDCOM, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, that he had come to notify the Commission of the predicaments of those Nigerians languishing in prison, held under article 416 bis of the Italian Mafia Criminal Code without any single evidence of those crimes committed.

On the next step of his advocacy, Osemwingie-Ero said he alongside his friends and family members will hold a protest next week, in front of the Italian Embassy, to let the world know “of the injustice that is being meted on us and those innocent Nigerians in prison”.

‘We will take it up’

In reaction to the ordeal he had narrated, Hon Dabiri-Erewa commiserated with the former Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs.

The NIDCOM CEO while emphasizing that key thing at the moment is the plight of Nigerians who the commissioner met in the Italian prison, explained that the first step would be to take up the case with the Attorney General’s office, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ms. Dabiri-Erewa said there are many cases of this nature that the AGF, Abubakar Malami handles, and that this case will be treated with the urgency that it deserves.

“Indeed if there are so many Nigerians in Italian prisons languishing for years, for an offence (they told you and you interacted with them) that they did not commit, we can’t just watch and see that happen.”

According to the NIDCOM Chairman, the Commission will be thorough about the case, adding that every legal avenue will be explored.

Italy Bans Large Cruise Ships From Venice Centre

(FILES) Large cruise ships will be banned from sailing into the centre of Venice from August 1 amid fears they are causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city, Italy’s government said on July 13, 2021. (Photo by MARCO SABADIN / AFP)

 

 

Large cruise ships will be banned from sailing into the centre of Venice from August 1, Italy announced Tuesday after years of warnings they risk causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city.

The decision comes just days before a meeting of the UN’s cultural organisation UNESCO, which had proposed to add Venice to its list of endangered heritage sites.

“The decree adopted today represents an important step for the protection of the Venetian lagoon system,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said after the decree was approved at a cabinet meeting.

He added that there would be money to mitigate the impact on employment.

The move will see the biggest ships diverted to the city’s industrial port of Marghera.

However, this is viewed as only a temporary solution, with ministers calling for ideas on a new permanent terminal.

The passengers aboard cruise ships provide a huge economic boost to Venice, but many residents say the giant floating hotels should not sail past the iconic St Mark’s Square.

They warn the ships cause large waves that undermine the city’s foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.

The debate was reignited by the return last month of cruises after the coronavirus pandemic, when the throngs of tourists that normally fill the streets stayed away.

Venice was put on UNESCO’s heritage list in 1987 as an “extraordinary architectural masterpiece”, but the body warned last month of the need for a “more sustainable tourism management”.

After years of debate, Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the government had decided to act now “to avoid the real risk of the city’s inclusion on the endangered world heritage list”.

– Good compromise –
“From August 1, large ships will no longer be able to reach Venice through the St Mark’s Basin, the St Mark’s Canal or the Giudecca Canal,” Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini said.

There would be compensation for those who lost out from the move and 157 million euros ($185 million) was being invested in the Marghera port.

He said the ban was a “necessary step to protect the environmental, landscape, artistic and cultural integrity of Venice”.

It will only apply to the biggest ships, with those carrying around 200 passengers viewed as “sustainable” and still allowed into the centre.

Those that fulfil any of four criteria will be banned: weighing more than 25,000 tonnes, measuring more than 180 metres long, more than 35 metres high or producing more than 0.1 percent sulphur.

The vice-president of tourism association Confturismo, Marco Michielli, said the new law represented a “good compromise”.

“The Marghera solution would maintain port activity in Venice, on the one hand safeguard jobs and activities, and on the other free up the Giudecca Canal on the other,” he said.

The issue of cruise ships in Venice has sparked global debate, and last month celebrities and cultural figures including Mick Jagger, Francis Ford Coppola and Richard Armstrong, director of the New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, issued a call for action.

In an open letter to the Italian government calling for a range of measures to better protect the city, they warned the historic site risked being “swept away” by cruise ships.

‘I Chose The Takers’: Southgate Takes Responsibility For Shootout Loss

England's coach Gareth Southgate (L) speaks with England's forward Marcus Rashford (R) ahead of going on during the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match between Italy and England at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. JOHN SIBLEY / POOL / AFP
England’s coach Gareth Southgate (L) speaks with England’s forward Marcus Rashford (R) ahead of going on during the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match between Italy and England at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. JOHN SIBLEY / POOL / AFP

 

England manager Gareth Southgate said it was his decision to put teenager Bukayo Saka as his team’s final penalty taker in their shoot-out loss to Italy in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.

The home side, playing in their first major final since 1966, lost 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Wembley.

Southgate also brought on Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford deep into extra time specifically to take spot-kicks, and they also both missed as England blew an early advantage in the shoot-out.

“I chose the takers,” Southgate told ITV. “I’m unbelievably disappointed not to go one step further.

“We decided to make the changes at the end of the game, but we win or lose together as a team.”

Arsenal winger Saka, who had only made five international appearances before the tournament, saw England’s final penalty saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, after Jorginho had wasted the chance to secure the title for Italy when his effort was kept out by Jordan Pickford.

“That was my decision to give him (Saka) that penalty,” said Southgate, who missed the crucial penalty when England lost in the Euro 96 semi-finals to Germany on home soil.

“We worked with them in training. It was a gamble.”

 

AFP

Italy Win Euro 2020, Deny England First Trophy In 55 Years


Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (R) and teammates celebrate after winning the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match between Italy and England at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP

 

Italy have beaten England on penalties to win the Euro 2020, denying the Three Lions their first major trophy in 55 years. 

The Italians defeated England 3-2 on penalties in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final as Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed in the shoot-out following a 1-1 draw after extra time at Wembley.

Luke Shaw scored for England inside two minutes, the fastest ever goal in a European Championship final, but Leonardo Bonucci bundled in an equaliser at a corner midway through the second half.

 


England’s defender Luke Shaw (R) celebrates after scoring the first goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match between Italy and England at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

Needing to score to keep England alive in the shoot-out, Saka’s spot-kick was saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma as the Azzurri won the tournament for the second time.

Italy’s triumph came at the end of a shoot-out in which England scored their first two penalties but then saw Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho also fail.

Jorginho could have won it for Italy only for his penalty to be saved by Jordan Pickford, giving renewed hope to the England support who had earlier created a febrile atmosphere with their team looking set to run away with this final.

The nerve-shredding climax seemed unlikely given the way the match began, with Luke Shaw scoring for Gareth Southgate’s England after just one minute and 57 seconds, the fastest goal ever in a European Championship final stunning a team who arrived here on a record 33-match unbeaten run.

Italy were shell-shocked and struggled to recover in a stadium where the official attendance was 67,173 but more England fans clearly managed to enter after disgraceful scenes when supporters without tickets stormed the gates.

Serious questions will be asked about security — the game was also held up by a pitch invader late on — but English fans were obviously desperate to see their team finally win a major tournament for the first time since the 1966 World Cup.

Italy, though, had most of the possession after falling behind and deserved their equaliser when it came midway through the second half through Leonardo Bonucci.

With no further scoring, this was the first European Championship final to be decided on penalties since 1976 and the decision to let the 19-year-old Saka step up when he did was a questionable one.

It is more penalty agony for England, whose list of previous shoot-out exits included losing to Italy at Euro 2012 as well as in the Euro 96 semi-finals against Germany when Southgate missed the crucial kick.

“We win and lose as a team and the penalty-takers were my call,” Southgate said.

“That is my decision, it is not down to the players but tonight it didn’t go for us.”

While their 55-year wait to win another major international title goes on, Italy’s own particular half-century of hurt is over.

Italy’s defender Giorgio Chiellini raises the European Championship trophy during the presentation after Italy won the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match between Italy and England at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP

 

The Azzurri have won four World Cups but their sole European Championship triumph before this dated back to 1968. They had lost two Euro finals in little over two decades.

However, they have been the outstanding team in this competition, beating Belgium and Spain on their way to the final.

“We have been saying that something magical was in the air since the end of May, day after day,” said skipper Giorgio Chiellini.

“It’s an incredible emotion, and we savour it because it is magnificent. We conceded a goal straight away but we dominated the whole game.”

READ ALSO: Messi Ends Trophy Drought As Argentina Beat Brazil To Win Copa America

 Baying crowd 

England fans cheer before the start of the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match between Italy and England at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. Carl Recine / POOL / AFP

 

Roberto Mancini’s team will now go back to Rome to celebrate, and yet they initially appeared completely unprepared for the experience that awaited them in London.

England’s baying supporters created a hostile atmosphere, and that combined with Southgate’s tactical choices seemed to catch the Italians off guard.

England brought back Kieran Trippier for Saka in the only change from their semi-final, reverting to a five-man defence.

Within two minutes England broke forward, Harry Kane supplying Trippier who crossed from the right to the far post for Shaw to score on the half-volley.

Italy, who had not been behind all tournament, were stunned and the only surprise was that England did not try to press home their obvious superiority.

Italian fightback 

taly’s midfielder Federico Chiesa celebrates after scoring the first goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 semi-final football match between Italy and Spain at Wembley Stadium in London on July 6, 2021.
Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

Italy had a constant threat in Federico Chiesa but the final only swung their way in the second half.

The equaliser arrived in the 67th minute. Marco Verratti stooped to meet a corner with a header that Pickford tipped onto the post, but Bonucci converted the rebound and celebrated with the Italy fans massed at that end of Wembley.

Italy then lost Chiesa to injury. Lorenzo Insigne did not last into extra time either, and Verratti came off too.

England sent on Jack Grealish in the hope of a bit of magic, but it would come down to penalties, and more gut-wrenching disappointment for them.

AFP

 

 

England And Italy Go To Extra Time In Euro 2020 Final


Italy’s players encourage each other during the UEFA EURO 2020 final football match between Italy and England at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021.
FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA / POOL / AFP

 

England and Italy went to extra time in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final following a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes at Wembley.

Luke Shaw scored inside two minutes, the fastest ever goal in a European Championship final, but Leonardo Bonucci bundled in an equaliser at a corner midway through the second half.

England are attempting to win their first trophy since the 1966 World Cup, while Italy won their only European title in 1968.

AFP

Five Key Battles For Euro 2020 Final

A combination of file pictures created on July 9, 2021 shows Italy’s players (L) in Rome on June 11, 2021 and England’s players in Rome on July 3, 2021. – England face Italy in the UEFA Euro 2020 final football match at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. (Photo by Andrew MEDICHINI and Alessandro GAROFALO / AFP)

 

 

The Euro 2020 final between Italy and England on Sunday at Wembley is widely expected to be a close match decided by fine margins.

Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five key battles on the pitch which could swing the game in one team’s favour:

Harry Kane v Giorgio Chiellini– Neither Kane nor Chiellini have enjoyed smooth rides through the tournament, but both will be crucial to their side’s hopes of winning the trophy.

England captain Kane was the top scorer in qualifying, but surprisingly looked out of sorts as he failed to score in the group stage.

But the Tottenham striker, who won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup, has since bounced back with four goals in three knockout matches to lead England into their first major tournament final for 55 years.

Veteran centre-back Chiellini hobbled off in the first half of Italy’s second Group A game against Switzerland and did not return until the quarter-final victory over Belgium.

But the Azzurri skipper, alongside fellow Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, has played a big part in helping Italy withstand onslaughts from both Belgium and Spain in the semi-finals.

Raheem Sterling v Giovanni Di Lorenzo– Manchester City winger Sterling has been the driving force behind England’s run, scoring winners against both Croatia and the Czech Republic in the group stage before netting the opening goal in the 2-0 last-16 victory over Germany.

He also ran a tired Denmark ragged in the semi-finals, having set up Kane’s opener against Ukraine in the quarters, and won the match-winning spot-kick.

Di Lorenzo will likely be the man tasked with stopping Sterling on Sunday.

The Napoli right-back has enjoyed a solid Euro 2020, but struggled at times against the pace of Jeremy Doku against Belgium, conceding a penalty for a needless foul on the teenager.

Kalvin Phillips v Jorginho– Jorginho has been the heartbeat of the Italy midfield and one of the reasons behind a tactical shift which has seen Roberto Mancini’s men enjoy more possession than previous Italian teams.

The Champions League winner was not as dominant in the semi-final against Spain, though, with Barcelona’s teenage sensation Pedri shining in midfield.

Only Chelsea star Jorginho and Pedri have covered more ground in the tournament than Phillips, coached by the famously demanding Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds.

England will be hoping Phillips can put his energy to good use and nullify the influence of Jorginho, as he did to Luka Modric for long spells of their opening match against Croatia.

Luke Shaw v Federico Chiesa– Two of the tournament’s star players will go head-to-head on Italy’s right wing.

Juventus youngster Chiesa has tormented defences with his pace and skill, scoring brilliant goals against Austria and Spain.

Left-back Luke Shaw will be the man tasked with stopping him, but the Manchester United defender has been an attacking threat too, making three assists.

Both teams will be hoping that their man in this duel can keep the other occupied defensively, rather than being left free to run into space.

Harry Maguire v Ciro Immobile– Italy’s front man Immobile has not fired on all cylinders so far at Euro 2020, but has still netted twice and has a brilliant goalscoring record for Lazio.

But he will have to be at his best to cause Maguire problems, with the England centre-back having impressed in every match since coming back from injury for the final group game.

Immobile may also be tasked with pressing Maguire to prevent him from playing the forward passes that have often launched England attacks since he returned to the team.

How Italy And England Reached The Euro 2020 Final

A combination of file pictures created on July 9, 2021 shows Italy’s forward Lorenzo Insigne (L) in London on July 6, 2021 and England’s forward Harry Kane in London on June 18, 2021. – England face Italy in the UEFA Euro 2020 final football match at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. (Photo by Frank AUGSTEIN and Laurence GRIFFITHS / AFP)

 

 

How Italy and hosts England qualified for Sunday’s Euro 2020 final at Wembley:

Italy Qualifying

Group J

Italy                10 10 0 0 37  4 30

Finland              10  6 0 4 16 10 18

Greece               10  4 2 4 12 14 14

Bosnia & Herzegovina 10  4 1 5 20 17 13

Armenia              10  3 1 6 14 25 10

Liechtenstein        10  0 2 8  2 31  2

Final tournament

 

A combination of file pictures created on July 9, 2021 shows England’s coach Gareth Southgate (L) in London on July 7, 2021 and Italy’s coach Roberto Mancini in Rome on June 16, 2021. – England face Italy in the UEFA Euro 2020 final football match at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. (Photo by Frank AUGSTEIN and Ettore FERRARI / AFP)

 

Group A

Italy          3 3 0 0 7 0 9

Wales          3 1 1 1 3 2 4

Switzerland    3 1 1 1 4 5 4

Turkey         3 0 0 3 1 8 0

June 11

A combination of file pictures created on July 9, 2021 shows Italy’s players (L) in Rome on June 11, 2021 and England’s players in Rome on July 3, 2021. – England face Italy in the UEFA Euro 2020 final football match at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. (Photo by Andrew MEDICHINI and Alessandro GAROFALO / AFP)

In Rome

Turkey 0 Italy 3 (Merih Demiral 53-og, Immobile 66, Insigne 79)

June 16

In Rome

Italy 3 (Locatelli 26, 52, Immobile 89) Switzerland 0

June 20

 

A combination of file pictures created on July 9, 2021 shows Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (R) in London on July 6, 2021 and England’s goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in London on June 22, 2021. – England face Italy in the UEFA Euro 2020 final football match at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. (Photo by Matt DUNHAM / AFP)

 

In Rome

Italy 1 (Pessina 39) Wales 0

Last 16

June 26

In London

Italy 2 (Chiesa 95, Pessina 105) Austria 1 (Kalajdzic 114) after extra time

Quarter-finals

July 2

In Munich

Belgium 1 (Lukaku 45+2) Italy 2 (Barella 31, Insigne 44)

Semi-finals

July 6

 

A combination of file pictures created on July 9, 2021 shows England supporters (L) holding an English flag reading “It’s coming home soon” in London on July 7, 2021 and Italy fans holding an Italian flag reading “It’s coming to Rome” in London on July 6, 2021. – England face Italy in the UEFA Euro 2020 final football match at the Wembley Stadium in London on July 11, 2021. (Photo by Carl RECINE and Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

In London

Italy 1 (Chiesa 60) Spain 1 (Morata 80)

after extra time – Italy won 4-2 on penalties

England Qualifying

Group A

England           8 7 0 1 37  6 21

Czech Republic    8 5 0 3 13 11 15

Kosovo            8 3 2 3 13 16 11

Bulgaria          8 1 3 4  6 17  6

Montenegro        8 0 3 5  3 22  3

Final tournament

Group D

England          3 2 1 0 2 0 7

Croatia          3 1 1 1 4 3 4

Czech Republic   3 1 1 1 3 2 4

Scotland         3 0 1 2 1 5 1

June 13

In London

England 1 (Sterling 57) Croatia 0

June 18

In London

England 0 Scotland 0

June 22

In London

Czech Republic 0 England 1 (Sterling 12)

Last 16

June 29

In London

England 2 (Sterling 75, Kane 86) Germany 0

Quarter-finals

July 3

In Rome

Ukraine 0 England 4 (Kane 4, 50, Maguire 46, Henderson 63)

Semi-finals

July 7

In London

England 2 (Kjaer 39-og, Kane 104) Denmark 1 (Damsgaard 30) after extra time