KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- One minor fact has been virtually buried beneath the hoop-la overwhelming the climax to the 2020 European Championship – an occasion swamped by media overkill and trampled by a wide range of entertainers, politicians, Z-list celebrities plus a smattering of A-listers.
Even royalty has weighed in though, since Prince William is president of the Football Association, it’s probably OK for his mother, the Queen, to send her best wishes and reminisce about her own role in the 1966 World Cup win in presenting the Jules Rimet trophy to Bobby Moore.
That minor fact?
Merely the simple point that at 8pm British Summer Time on the evening of Sunday, July 11, there is a football match to be played, won and lost.
England v Italy or, if you prefer the UEFA version based on the order of the semi-final victories, Italy v England.
How does that work in the record books? Is this an England home match or not?
This is the least of the questions to be answered once the blinding fog of euphoria is swept aside and the two teams kick off.
On paper it looks tight. Extra-time tight. Let’s not speculate about penalties.
Italy were by far the most impressive team in the group stage, sharp, focused, dynamic. England were solid, down-to-earth, almost equally effective.
After France won the World Cup in 2018 in Russia coach Didier Deschamps noted that the group stage and the knockout rounds had to be approached as two entirely different competitions.
England manager Gareth Southgate has duly taken it step by step. The goalless draw against Scotland satisfied him – if no-one else – because that meant England had four points and thus progressed to the round of 16 with a game to spare.
Next target was topping the group, which was achieved by defeating Czech Republic. Then it was back to competitive square one in the KO stage.
Italy carried on in the knockout stage where they left off in the group. Their opponents all sat back in fear and allowed coach Roberto Mancini’s men to dictate the flow of the game. Until, that is, the Azzurri came up against Spain in the semi-final.
La Roja were not intimidated and took the game to Italy who looked extremely uncomfortable throughout the first half. They then realised that Spain, for all their pretty patterns, were short of ideas on how to put the ball in the net.
This is not an issue for England. They may not weave Spanish-style patterns but Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling are, demonstrably, capable of scoring goals.
England have won nothing since the 1966 World Cup; Italy have not won the European title since 1968.
For either team, it’s time to emerge from the clouds of hyperbole.