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Italy holds historical edge over England ahead of Euro 2020 final

FOOTBALL By Associated Press | July 10th 2021
In this Saturday, June 14, 2014 file photo, Italy's Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring past England's goalkeeper Joe Hart, left, during the group D World Cup soccer match between England and Italy at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil. [Associated Press]

Pirlo’s “Panenka.” Schillaci’s Golden Boot clincher. Another emotional goal celebration from Marco Tardelli.

The major tournament rivalry — if it can be called that — between Italy and England has been marked by a few stand-out moments, and they all belong to the Italians.

In four meetings at either a World Cup or a European Championship, the Azzurri have won three of them and advanced via a penalty shootout in the other.

England might have home advantage in the Euro 2020 final between the teams tomorrow at Wembley Stadium but, historically, Italy has the edge.

“We know the size of the task,” England coach Gareth Southgate said. “It’s the biggest possible test we can have.” This is no classic international rivalry. Indeed, they have only met once in a knockout match at a major tournament and that was in 2012, when Italy won 4-2 on penalties in Kyiv — after a 0-0 draw through extra time — in the latest shootout heartache for England.

It will best be remembered for a coolly taken “Panenka” penalty by stylish midfielder Andrea Pirlo midway through the shootout. England was somewhat fortunate to get that far anyway after being outplayed for large parts of the match.

That has been a theme.

The first match between England and Italy at a tournament came at Euro 1980, when Tardelli guided a near-post finish past goalkeeper Peter Shilton to earn the Azzurri a 1-0 win in their second group match.

Tardelli is best known for his screaming, fist-waving celebration after scoring Italy’s second goal in a 3-1 victory over West Germany in the 1982 World Cup final. His reaction after the winning goal against England was also emotional as he wheeled his way around the perimeter of the field before rolling onto the ground and holding his head in his hands.

In 1990, the teams met in a third-place playoff at the World Cup in Italy. It’s regarded as a match no one really wants to play, coming so soon after losses in the semifinals, but it at least gave Italy striker Salvatore Schillaci the opportunity to become the top scorer at the tournament. And he took it, converting a penalty in the 86th minute to give Italy a 2-1 win and finish with six goals, one more than Czechoslovakia striker Tomas Skuhravy.

The only other tournament meeting was in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and the Italians again won, with Mario Balotelli’s second-half header handing them a 2-1 victory in steamy Manaus in Brazil’s Amazonian rainforest.

Since then, there have been a pair of 1-1 draws in friendly games, none of which were played before Roberto Mancini became Italy coach in May 2018.

The overall record stands at 11 wins for Italy and eight wins for England in a total of 27 matches. Undefeated in the first eight meetings, England has only managed one win in the last seven.

Under Mancini, Italy is on a 33-match unbeaten run — a national record.

“They have been a top team for the last couple of years,” Southgate said.

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