Wednesday, February 21

England v Italy: 5 things to look out for tonight


As England fans endure the nervous countdown to tonight’s historic European final against Italy, there are a few things to watch out for.

From the formation, the managers’ outfits and which famous faces to look out for in the stands, here’s five things you need to keep an eye on at Wembley this evening.

Wouldn’t that be lovely? Ease the nerves a bit? England have specialised in flying starts, from the moment Phil Foden hit the post inside the first six minutes of their opening game against Croatia.

There were quick goals against the Czech Republic and Ukraine. Remember, Kieran Trippier put England ahead five minutes into their 2018 World Cup semi-final, but Croatia won the match 2-1.

Gareth Southgate and his players believe they are better equipped to hold a lead now. It’s all about experience and game management, said Tripper himself. Going through that moment against Croatia was about learning.

Which takes your eye better? Gareth Southgate’s polka dot ties, or the light grey Armani suits of Roberto Mancini and his Italy coaching team?

Surprise, surprise – Italians making a splash in the fashion stakes, those suits sometimes paired with navy shirts, sometimes with ties and crisp white shirts.

Southgate – his 2018 World Cup waistcoats left in the wardrobe this time – has worn a polka dot tie for every game bar one.

The exception was the only game his team didn’t win, the 0-0 draw against Scotland. Polka dots tonight, then, surely.

The Juventus pair of Leonardo Bonucci and captain Giorgio Chiellini have a combined age of 70 but can still lay claim to being the best in the tournament – nine years after playing in Italy’s last Euros final, a 4-0 defeat by Spain in Kiev.

Anything they’ve lost in pace is made up for by everything you learn in a joint total of 219 internationals.

If you’re new to this, they’re easy to spot: Chiellini, receding hairline above a face that bears the scars of battle, Bonucci shaven-headed; either might interest a casting director looking for a villain.

Never mind the Royal Box at Wimbledon, this is the hottest ticket. You can expect royalty and stars of stage, screen and sport.

The Duke of Cambridge will be there as FA President (while the duchess, out of isolation, is at Wimbledon), though unlike his grandmother at the 1966 World Cup Final, he won’t get to present the trophy. That honour goes to UEFA President Alexander Ceferin.

Also worth looking out for: James Corden, Piers Morgan, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Pixie Lott and the England squad’s own in-house barbeque entertainer Ed Sheeran.