I have never had a feeling like the one I have now about England. Absolutely everything has fallen into place.
We have the best manager we have had in my lifetime in Gareth Southgate. I thought Gary Neville was spot on before the game when he said that Southgate is made for England - he’s the right manager at the right time.
The team is the best team we’ve had in my lifetime too. Our squad is ridiculous and the options and variety of quality players is just frightening. Importantly, they get each other and love playing for one another, which hasn’t always been there with England.
Annoyingly, you could say exactly the same about Italy. Mancini is made for Italy and is a brilliant manager who has managed to foster a winning culture and togetherness in his squad that is very similar to what we’ve seen with England.
The best two teams are in the final and it’s just a shame that someone has to lose.
The midfield battle will be key. I’ve been really impressed with Jorginho in this tournament and I’m a little concerned with how ineffective Phillips and Rice were against Denmark. Jordan Henderson came on and we improved - his leadership and experience in these big moments could be key, and I think he has to start if we are going to win.
Otherwise, I have no concerns. Our goalkeeper is brilliant, our defence is brilliant, our attackers are brilliant.
Oh, and it’s at Wembley. There might be 90,000 fans there in the ground and that should be a massive boost to our lads.
I fancy us to win 2-1. COME ON ENGLAND!
Mark Wood says...
I have had a more measured outlook throughout the tournament which I suppose has come from years of watching England AND Sunderland. The expectation that at some point either England will cock it up or some piece of bad luck will come our way, like a man sent off or losing a penalty shoot-out.
1966 was before I was born, but I very well remember 1990 and 1996, when to be fair in our two encounters with the Germans, whichever team had won those games would probably have won the respective tournaments given the opposition in the finals.
2018 was different, a game in which England should have won but Gareth Southgate was outthought tactically by his opposite number, and I was just waiting for some kind of similar disaster or bad luck to come our way last night. I have resisted the urge get carried away by the likes of Shearer telling everyone ‘ something special is going to happen ‘ or Ferdinand’s assertion from the group games that ‘ England are going to win it ‘.
Watching England in a tournament down the years has always been like watching Sunderland - glimpses of hope, the odd moments of joy alongside frustration, but usually with an ultimately desponding end.
This though, is new territory. A completely new experience to most of us and this England team truly are making their own history. I would love to see us win so that the press can stop talking about 1966.
Unfortunately we are up against an Italian team who really seem to have got their act together. Italy have always been difficult to beat with the way they have always been so organised defensively, but this lot have a real attacking threat too.
But the same is true of this England side. Southgate has made just about every call right tactically in this tournament, and we are playing at home.
I think on paper it's very evenly matched and difficult to call, my hope goes for a 1-0 England win. My head says the Italians will just nick it. I just hope it doesn’t go to penalties.
Kelvin Beattie says...
It was hardly an outside bet to tip Italy as the tournament got underway. The Azzuri’s form coming into the tournament was alarmingly good, Mancini appears to have developed a team that are difficult to beat, play a variety of formations and have some individual players who will need carefully nullified.
I say carefully as a lazy or hasty challenge in the wrong area and England will be giving away free kicks and/or penalties to a team who have players who know how and when to go down.
Before the inevitable claims from England fans begins again about diving Italians, I would step you down from your final bound ivory tower and tell you that it will probably surprise you to know that England’s reputation (outside of England and its media) is that they too have players who are considered to be just as good at conning the ref’s and who know the way easily to the turf! Cue Sterling, Kane and Grealish.
I believe Italy not only have form, game plan and individuals who can turn a game, but also arrive with a very strong sense of team and playing for the jersey, they are formidable!
I have been just a tad concerned that the periods in all of England’s games so far where they have been able to step off the gas and concede territory and possession are not as controlled as some commentators would have us believe. Italy with their staccato rhythm of playing will test the patience and game plan of England.
All that said and I am tipping England to finally bring it home again. Kane has picked up and looks to be back to something like his best. I thought he played a clever effective game against Denmark.
Sterling has turned up from day one at this tournament and looks like a man who is in his x-factor element. I have not been as convinced as many by the Phillips/Rice hinge in midfield and would replace either of them with the experience of Henderson.
I would say England’s bench is better than Italy’s and that in Kyle “Des” Walker, England have the defender of the tournament so far.
So England to win by a goal in what might probably be a tense/nerve-jangling 1-0 or 2-1.
Joseph Tulip says...
There’s no question that England’s players face the game of their lives on Sunday, with the hopes and aspirations of a nation on their shoulders.
They will face top drawer opposition against Italy, but England have proven that with this set of players, anything is possible. We’ve beaten Germany and Denmark, and this will be our greatest challenge yet. But look at the way we grew into the semi final, especially after going a goal down, the character to dig in and the quality of our football was evident.
What impressed me most was during the second period of extra time. We were running the ball into the corners with 10 minutes to go. This might seem negative, but it was an ultra-professional approach to possession-based football which took anything I have seen from an England team to a whole new level.
Like the penalty against Denmark, we might need a bit of luck on our side, but we have genuine quality throughout the whole squad, let alone the starting XI, and I have no doubt that we have the credentials to lift our first major trophy since 1966.