The opening two lyrics of the Italian national anthem are Fratelli d’Italia, Italia s’e desta.
They are translated as ‘Brothers of Italy, Italy has awakened’ in English.
The second statement undoubtedly applies to the Italian football team, which has awoken from its slumber and is in the final of Euro 2020, where they will face England on Sunday night at Wembley.
We’ve all heard of England, but what of their adversaries?
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WHERE ARE THEY STRONG? Italy is through to the Euro 2020 final on Sunday, continuing their international revival.
Let’s begin with catenaccio, an Italian philosophy emphasizing the importance of defense.
There is a principle of Italian football that hasn’t changed over time, and it’s the same here.
Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have been around for what seems like an eternity, but Father Time has yet to catch up with them.
The centre-back duo has a combined age of 70 (Chiellini is 36 and Bonucci is 34), and their combined experience has been invaluable throughout the tournament.
They have been outstanding in the quarter-final and semi-final victories over Belgium and Spain, respectively, and are the cornerstones of boss Roberto Mancini’s defense.
In defence, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have been exceptional. In goal, Italy has Gianluigi Donnarumma, a 6ft 5in towering presence.
Behind them stands Gianluigi Donnarumma, one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
He has 32 caps for his country despite being only 22 years old, having made his debut as a 17-year-old in September 2016.
He is a towering presence at 6ft 5in, and Harry Kane and his teammates will find it difficult to overcome him on Sunday.
Further up the field, Italy’s midfield has been a joy to watch throughout the tournament.
Jorginho has started every game at the basis of the midfield, with Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti playing beside him in a three-man midfield.
The trio exudes technical prowess in spades, outshining England in this regard ahead of Sunday’s showdown.
ARE THERE ANY WEAKNESSES? Marco Verratti (centre) is a member of Italy’s technical midfield three and will cause England problems.
It’s difficult to criticize Italy when they’ve performed so well, but one area where you might is in attack – particularly at center-forward.
Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti have failed to put the tournament on blast after scoring 12 goals in six matches as a duo.
In five appearances, Immobile has two goals, while Belotti has failed to score in the same number of games.
Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa, as well as midfielders Manuel Locatelli and Matteo Pessina, have each scored two goals.
One belongs to Barella, while the other belongs to Turkey’s Merih Demiral, who scored against them in the tournament’s opener.
If the Italians have another cause for concern, it could be at the left back.
Leonardo Spinazzola had been great there, but he sustained an achilles injury in their quarter-final victory against Belgium.
Emerson Palmieri started against Spain, but he is Chelsea’s third-choice midfielder, and he could have a difficult evening against the likes of Raheem Sterling and his teammates on Sunday.
Andrea Belotti (left) has failed to score in any of Italy’s five Euro 2020 games. STAR MEN Up until his injury, Spinazzola had been Italy’s standout performance, shrewd in defence and swashbuckling in attack.
While the likes of Donnarumma, Chiellini, and Bonucci are well-known, the effect of Jorginho, Barella, and Insigne has been crucial to the Italians’ success and will be again if they win at the weekend.
They have their midfield metronome in Jorginho.
He was frequently mocked at Chelsea, but the 29-year-old had a rebirth towards the end of the season, which he has carried over to the Euros.
He’ll be the one dictating the speed of the team, often scooping up the ball from his centre backs.
He’ll be joined by the ever-impressive Barella.
Inter’s rising star, if Jorginho is the metronome, is the box-to-box energy in midfield, often breaking the lines to create an extra attacking danger.
When in a shooting position, he can also finish, as evidenced by his goal against Belgium.
Mancini may have to make some selections in his front three, but Lorenzo Insigne is a foregone conclusion.
As his wonder-strike against Belgium demonstrated, the small playmaker is a remarkable talent who isn’t afraid to aim from afar.
Jorginho (centre) is Italy’s midfield metronome, and he’ll set the pace in Sunday’s final. FORMATION For Mancini, a 4-3-3 system has been a recurring motif.
This gives him a defensive base, control of midfield, and the ability to be deadly in the transition phase with their speed in attack.
It’s safe to presume that nine of the names are set for Sunday, with only the up front and one of the wing spots up for grabs – with Insigne starting on the left of the front three.
With his spectacular semi-final strike, Federico Chiesa, son of legendary striker Enrico Chiesa, is expected to take the other berth.
Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne
THE MANAGER An terrific, elegant, deep-lying forward in his day, Mancini may further cement his reputation as a fantastic manager on Sunday by starting Lorenzo Insigne on the left of a front three for Italy in a 4-3-3 configuration.
In his management career, he has won awards in Italy, England, and Turkey, but this would be the best of them all.
He took over a team that had failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and has now guided them to the next big event.
That is probably underappreciated – the work he has done has been nothing short of outstanding.
His calm demeanor on the sidelines, both in appearance and demeanor, has definitely permeated the team’s psyche.
When they’re at their best, they’re a dazzling tornado of activity, harrying opponents with their pressing, yet when it counts, their brains are calm and calculated.
After Mancini’s soothing words prior to the penalty shootout against the Spanish left his players appearing comfortable and focused – in contrast to their opponents, who were heated up and frenzied – there could only be one winner.
After his appointment as manager, Roberto Mancini (left) has turned Italy’s fortunes around. PATH TO THE FINAL Almost faultless
With a perfect record in Group A, they overcame Turkey 3-0, Switzerland 3-0, and Wales 1-0 before switching their lineup in a 1-0 win against Wales.
They faced a tenacious Austrian team in the last 16 and won 2-1 in extra time after a goalless 90 minutes.
At Wembley, Pessina’s strike in the 105th minute proved decisive.
The Azzurri faced Belgium, the world’s top-ranked nation, in the quarter-finals, but Mancini’s side were unfazed, winning 2-1 after gaining a two-goal lead through Barella and Insigne.
The battle versus Spain in the semi-final on Tuesday required penalties to decide a winner, and they were convincing in the shootout, winning 4-2 after the game had ended 1-1 after 120 minutes of action.
HISTORY MAKERS Italy’s six-game unbeaten streak in the tournament has brought their total to 33 games in all competitions (winning 27 and drawing six), a national record.
Their most recent loss was against Portugal in the UEFA Nations League group stage on September 10, 2018 (1-0 loss).
Only Brazil (1993-96) and Spain (2007-09) have ever had a longer unbeaten record, with both teams going 35 games without losing.
They’ve also shattered their own records for the longest winning run (13) – showing their momentum and Mancini’s impact since taking over as manager on May 14, 2018.
Be wary of England.
Italia s’e s’e s’e s’e s’e s’