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Where Will The Euro 2020 Final Be Won And Lost In A Tactical Battle

There is a tide in men’s affairs The main question before every game has been whether Gareth Southgate should play with a back three or a back four.

Block the opposition wingers/fullbacks or create a defensive issue for them?

There is no clear answer.

Southgate used the more cautious approach against Germany and was rewarded after an hour or two of grinding.

It was all about making the wing-backs defend against Ukraine, and it worked well.

It was the back four again against Denmark, and after a shaky 15 minutes in the first half, Southgate was rewarded.

But, few issues in football are black-and-white; the answer to the flanks is frequently found in midfield.

It’s pointless to play chicken on the sides if you don’t control the centre, because your wingers will spend the majority of their time tracking back.

Southgate chose a back three against Germany because any two of Toni Kroos, Leon Goretzka, and Ilkay Gundogan, plus Thomas Muller and Kai Havertz sliding low, had the ability to starve England of possession.

He was optimistic that England could control midfield against Ukraine and Denmark.

There were some nerves, but by the second half, it was evident that the risk had paid off.

The problem with Italy is that they will be playing a back four rather than a back three, like Germany, Denmark, and Ukraine did.

Spain may have dominated possession against Italy’s midfield trio of Jorginho, Marco Verratti, and Nicolo Barella, but England, despite their recent progress, cannot pass as well as Luis Enrique’s Spain.

The last-16 match, in which Italy struggled to exert themselves on Austria, who played a back three against them, may provide a better template.

His left hand, which blazed and burned like a swarm of 20 fires…

The link-up between Leonardo Spinazzola and Lorenzo Insigne was Italy’s main attacking threat in the early stages of the competition.

Even with Spinazzola’s injury against Belgium and his replacement by Emerson Palmieri, that remains the case, even if Emerson’s chemistry with Insigne isn’t exactly as smooth as it should be considering their lack of recent playing time together.

Emerson must be checked not only to halt his personal incursions (he did hit the crossbar against Spain in the semi-final), but also to prevent the link-up that makes Insigne more dangerous.

Against Spain, Lorenzo Insigne flees down the left wing.

That may be Bukayo Saka, who played well against Denmark after a cautious start. Photograph: Bagu Blanco/Pressinphoto/Rex/Shutterstock

If a 3-4-3 is preferred, Mason Mount, who excelled in the role in last year’s Nations League victory over Belgium, might be the man.

Under the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 utilized against Denmark, a back three would effectively shove Kyle Walker into a position from which he could pick up Insignes drifts inside, far more naturally than any other player would.

What’s with all the gliding ghosts?

Throughout the first week of the tournament, there was a lot of discussion over Harry Kane’s propensity of dropping deep and if it was advantageous to England or merely produced congestion in the middle.

That discussion is undoubtedly over after his performance against Denmark.

Kane’s mobility is a significant benefit as long as there is at least one wide player to get past him, and his link-up with Saka and Sterling was a major weapon (which may be an argument in favor of the 4-3-3)

Yet, in the Champions League in 2018, Spain’s usage of Dani Olmo as a false 9 unnerved Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, while Kane’s movement plagued a Juventus defense that included Chiellini.

Kane, along with, presumably, Kalvin Phillips, may have a part to play in a 3-4-3, dropping deep to try to prevent Jorginho from acting as a metronome at the back of the Italian midfield.

Jorginho is important to creating Italy’s rhythm, with a pass completion rate of 92.9%, the highest of any midfielder who has started more than three games at this Euros. England will need to find a method to disturb him.

If it’s a back four, Mount will almost certainly get the job.

The sound of fighting echoed through the air. England has made significant strides in terms of set-piece danger in the last two games, with Harry Maguire posing a major threat.

He won three headers in a row from set plays against Denmark’s towering back three, the second of which prompted a superb reaching save from Kasper Schmeichel.

Maguire has won more aerial duels per game than any other player from a team that has reached the final eight, and while Bonucci and Chiellini have the experience and ability to deal, Italy has won a lesser percentage of aerial clashes in this tournament than any other team except Finland and Hungary.

They are not physically imposing as a unit, which may give England an advantage, as they have produced more opportunities from set plays than any other team in the Euros.

Mount and Luke Shaw are both in the top ten for set-piece chance generation, with Trippier not far behind.

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