In a thrilling UEFA EURO 2020 Final, Roberto Mancini’s Italy got the best of Southgate’s England, winning the competition for their second time in a dramatic penalty shootout — cover photo: @EURO2020 on Twitter.

Italy extended their incredible unbeaten streak to 34 games by defeating England in a tense, pulsating European Championship final.

Despite going down 1-0 early courtesy of a goal from Luke Shaw, Italy drew level in the second half through Leonardo Bonucci before eventually securing victory in a dramatic penalty shootout.

Aside from being an entertaining final between two elite outfits, this colossal clash was also full of intrigue on a tactical level. While Roberto Mancini stuck to his usual base 4-3-3 animation, Gareth Southgate opted to alter his setup from the semi-final by switching to a three at the back with Kieran Trippier and Shaw as flying wingbacks.

The England manager was immediately vindicated for his selection, with both the wingbacks proving crucial for their opener. Adding vital width and depth to the Three Lions' attacks, Trippier was initially found following a switch of play. From here, he had oceans of space to assess his options and wait for his teammates to flood the box. Seeing as England had a 4v3 overload in the box, which included Shaw embarking on a wicked blindside run into the area, Trippier shrewdly recognized his run and obliged it with a precise cross for him to slam home.

England's nicely worked opening goal - image made with Wyscout Playlist & Draw tool.

Settling into the game nicely, the home side imposed themselves with some smart build up mechanics too, where they'd alternate between building out with two and three central defenders to cause headaches for Italy's pressing strategy.

When building in a three, Italy's narrow front three would press England's asymmetric back trio, with this opening up spaces out wide into the wingbacks. Indeed, with Trippier and Shaw being wide and unable to be accessed by Italy's wingers and Italy's fullbacks, who were reluctant to step out to them, not wanting to leave hugs gaps in behind, they were often free to receive.

Meanwhile, in the instances when they attempted to pass out in a back two, it was interesting to see one of the central defenders push up into a holding midfield role. In response to this, the Azzurri would still press the defensive trio with three players but struggled again to deal with the free wingback, with England smartly progressing by forming 4v3 overloads due to one of Italy's number eights in Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella pressing the nearby wingback. This would consequently leave their direct opponent in Declan Rice or Kalvin Phillips open in the middle to receive.

Smart build up variations with Stones pushing into the holding midfield zone.
Exploiting the space and creating an overload in their two at the back setup.

Even though England's mechanics helped them regularly bypass the first line of pressure in the first half especially, they found it tough to break down Italy's 4-1-4-1 mid block shape. Covering central spaces so effectively, their positioning to block passing lanes, awareness of their opposition and lateral shifting nullified England and forced them away from central areas.

Although the likes of Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane occasionally found space to operate in when dropping between the lines, making room for one another by pinning opponents or when subtly interchanging positions, Italy's compactness and discipline made life hard for England to consistently produce quality chances.

Sterling smartly dropping between the lines.

After a slow start, Italy began to showcase why they've been one of the standout teams of the tournament in possession by impressively growing into the game. One of the key tenets of their offensive play was how they funneled many attacks down their left. Just as they've done throughout the summer showpiece, they formed diamond and triangular overloads so they had strong connections nearby and many passing angles to bypass England down this side.

Italy forming a 4v3 overload down the left.
Italy again producing a 4v3 down the left flank.

How Lorenzo Insigne and Emerson slickly executed rotations so the former could be isolated out wide and the latter could maraud infield on damaging underlaps further compounded issues for their foes.

The fact Italy funneled 44% of attacks down their left, including the move that led to them winning the corner that allowed them to equalize, underlined the success of their approach.

Some other points of note arose from how Verratti and Jorginho would venture into the half-spaces to enjoy time and space on the ball to dictate proceedings and how their center backs would dribble upfield to lure out an opponent so a free man could be accessed directly or via a third man combination.

With Italy keen to pass out from the back in their 4-3-3, it was interesting how England pressed them and how the Azzurri found solutions. Harrying in what was essentially a 5-2-3 shape, England's front three would start quite narrow, with Kane monitoring Bonucci while keeping Jorginho in his cover shadow, Mount oriented towards fullback Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Sterling keeping tabs on Giorgio Chiellini. England's compact wingers had a dual role of trying to block passing lanes into Italy's eights, which allowed Rice and Phillips to stay in shape and set a pressing trap before getting at their direct opponents in Barella and Verratti respectively.

England's pressing mechanics.

In the early running, England did a fine job of restricting their opponents and shutting down many attacks, as their positioning and awareness saw them overcome Italy's 6v5 numerical superiority. But as things wore on, Mancini's men began to find joy by initially passing the ball to the more vacant wide areas before finding Jorginho underneath the press.

Key to their success, as seen in the image below, was how Barella would drop away from the ball and drag Rice with him so Italy could create a 4v3 to find the free, forward-facing Jorginho. In doing so, the Chelsea maestro could then use his passing wizardry and have time to make quality decisions to progress attacks.

Italy beating the press by finding the free Jorginho after some smart mechanics.

Mancini definitely deserves credit for his substitutions to swing the match, for his decision to bring on Domenico Berardi and move Lorenzo Insigne central gave them a real boost in the second half. Essentially deploying Insigne as a false nine, allowed him to connect play smartly, create overloads and drag defenders out of shape to generate imbalances in England's rearguard.

Insigne dropping deep to get on the ball in dangerous areas as he causes issues for England's backline.

Dominating huge chunks of the second half, Italy unquestionably deserved their leveler, with not just the Insigne change, but also Mancini's decision to move Federico Chiesa to the left and put Berardi on the right, also working wonders.

Southgate eventually responded by reshuffling his pack after the introduction of Bukayo Saka which saw them operate in more of a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3, hoping to find more stability.

Ultimately, however, the two teams couldn't be separated in 120 minutes, with the match being decided by a thrilling penalty shootout that Italy prevailed in.

Constructing a balanced, organized and tactically sophisticated side that's excellent in all phases of the game, winning the Euros was a perfect reward for all the exceptional work Mancini and his coaching staff have done with the team since taking over in 2018.

Next up for the freshly crowned European Champions will be the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where they'll rightfully be one of the favorites. And if they play like they did at these Euros, they'll certainly be a tough outfit for anyone to stop there too.

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