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My Heart is English but my Head says Italy

After 55 years of disappointment and failure, with some glorious performances thrown in but generally always coming short, England has reached only their Second major competition final.

The route to the final of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament has been kind to us and for those fans that point the finger at the supposed favour that has been given to England, we can only beat the teams that are put in front of us, and many times in the past England teams have failed to even get out of the group stage of past Euro tournaments.

After the disappointment of not qualifying for the 1978 World Cup, Ron Greenwood set out to qualify for the Euro 80 tournament to be held in Italy.

Just eight teams would take part and England easily won their group containing both the North and Republic of Ireland, Bulgaria and Denmark.

This would be my first experience of watching England in a major tournament and would set the tone for most future tournaments of watching them

The opening draw against Belgium was marred by crowd violence with Italian police resulting in using tear gas at one point to try to quell the English fans rioting.

The loss to Italy in the next game ended England chances and despite beating Spain in the third group game 2-1, Brooking scoring his first England goal, Our journey was over.

Belgium would qualify for the final as group winners losing to Germany 2-1.

World Cup 82 finished with England going home after the second group stage without losing a game and only conceding 1 goal.

Supporting England and accepting that it was likely to end in failure, sometimes glorious but normally with a whimper seemed just an extension of supporting West Ham so I can't say I've ever thought England would win a trophy.

The fact that in 55 years there have only been three semi-Finals appearances prior to this year to get the hopes up highlights that England fans hopes are always higher than the teams' ability.

The final against Italy is all that stands between these players and a chance to join the 11 heroes of 66 with lifelong immortality and hero worship.

While History takes no count of current form our record against Italy in international games is something to worry about, 9 years and 4 games since our last victory in any form against them and you have to go back to 1977 for our last victory over them in a competitive game, in a world cup qualifier.

In November of 77, England needed a miracle to qualify for the 1978 World cup, and despite the victory, the miracle never appeared.

don Revie had just departed, causing a shock as he decided to take the riches on offer from the Arabs rather than see out the qualifying bid, so Ron Greenwood was brought in from West Ham to take the reigns.

Ron called up into his squad Billy Bonds and it seemed he finally would win that England cap he long cherished.

As Bill is probably one of the greatest English players to never win a cap for his country its no surprise that Bill failed to get onto the pitch, but as he sat on the bench he would have been entertained by the brooking Keegan partnership as both scored that night to give England a hollow 2-0 victory as it was the Italians who were off to Argentina for the next years world cup.

England's record against the Italians is 8 wins 8 draws and 11 defeats, and all the defeats have come since 1973 when a future England manager, Fabio Capello, would score in a 2-0 win and since that win we have faced each other 18 times with England winning only 3.

That though is the past, and the present crop of players do not carry the burden of any losses against them and with the Wembley crowd roaring us on, there is every chance that we can achieve the glittering prize of European greatness.

Watching the Italians playing in the opening game of the tournament, a 3-0 win over Turkey, the way they played was very un-Italian like.

In the past, they have played a style of football known in Italy as 'Catenaccio' or the chain as it is roughly translated as. A defensive led style of play they had mastered over the years. Roberto Mancini's team seem to have broken the chain and embraced a more attacking flair, not content with just winning by the odd goal they seem to look to score constantly as much as they can.

Mancini took over after Italy failed to even qualify for the 2018 World cup, and since then have lost only twice and are currently 33 games unbeaten breaking the 30 game record that had stood for over 80 years.

The goal Austria scored was the first they had conceded in 1186 minutes of football. Since watching the opening game I have tipped Italy to win the trophy and while my heart is with England all the way, my head says to stick with my initial belief, that the Italians will be holding the trophy aloft at Wembley on Sunday Evening. If that is indeed the outcome I won't be filing this tournament down as another glorious failure, but one where the pride of the Country footballing wise has been restored to the top of the international tree and if we are to succeed I have the belief that going into next years World Cup, perhaps the true greatest prize in football will be coming to the home of football again.

1 Comment

Roy Clark
Roy Clark
Jul 09, 2021

I'm afraid that I agree with you, Nigel. The Italians will probably have too much for us.

I just can't see our defence keeping their front three at bay for 90minutes and it will be difficult for us at the other end as well.

I reckon the only chance we have is if Southgate bolsters the midfield to have a 3 v 3 but that has its risks as changing what has so far been successful is potentially dodgy.

Still, we shall see. I hope this is one of my less successful predictions.

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