Talking tactics: breaking the final down


The script was all too familiar for England from its 2018 World Cup semifinal defeat to Croatia — take the early lead, sit back, invite pressure, cede control in midfield and get punished.

Gareth Southgate set England up in a 3-4-3 formation, while Roberto Mancini’s Italy lined up in a 4-3-3, with contrasting styles on display in a hard-fought contest.

England was a goal up through Luke Shaw after 117 seconds of play, capitalising on Italy’s shape being pulled apart after an unsuccessful corner.

England executed its game-plan for the best part of the first 30 minutes with high-intensity pressing all around the pitch, making it difficult for Italy to settle.

But as the game wore on, Italy’s three-man midfield of Marco Verratti, Jorginho and Nicolo Barella shaded the battle in the centre of the pitch against England’s Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice.

The second period started in the same vein, with England pinned in its half by Italian pressure, both on and off the ball. While England conceded a sloppy set-piece goal, the opportunity arose because of Italy’s sustained dominance.

Mancini brought on Dominico Berardi early in the second half and his off-the-ball movement, along with Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa, troubled England’s defenders. The full-backs and central midfielders created repetitive overloads on both flanks.

In between the 65th and 66th minute, Italy strung together a sequence of 24 successive passes, before Chiesa’s cross was headed behind for the corner that led to the equaliser.

Losing verve

Chiesa’s injury and subsequent exit in the 86th minute effectively blunted Italy’s attack, and the final lost its verve.

Southgate’s late introduction of Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho in extra-time didn’t seem to alter the contest, which went to penalties.

Although England took the lead again in the shoot-out, Gianluigi Donnarumma stood tall in goal and Italy emerged triumphant.

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2021 2:01:19 AM |

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