Soccer

Italy’s Euro 2020 final with England is ‘youngsters against old men’ – Leonardo Bonucci

Italy veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci says he is concerned about the speed of England’s attack heading into Sunday’s Euro 2020 final (stream live on ESPN and ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET) and joked that it will be for him and defensive teammate Giorgio Chiellini a “youngsters against old men” test.

Bonucci, 34, and Chiellini, 36, will have the daunting task of trying to limit in-form England strikers Harry Kane, 27, and Raheem Sterling, 26.

Youngsters against old men,” Bonucci said while smiling. “We’re not discovering Kane now, it’s been years that he’s being doing good things with Tottenham, England.

“In the last three games we’ve been lucky to come up against the three best strikers in the world [Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku, Spain’s Alvaro Morata and now Kane]. It’s just an added motivation not to concede anything.

“They have very strong forwards, we will need to be very careful of them, the defence and the whole team. We know the challenges they can pose to us and we will have to be careful about their speed.”

Bonucci said Italy are not scared to take on hosts England at Wembley. England won the 1966 World Cup on home soil but have yet to lift a continental cup. Around 60,000 fans are expected to attend the final, but most of them will be English fans as Britain’s travel rules require arrivals from Italy to quarantine for 10 days.

Playing at their home does not scare us,” the Juventus centre-back said. “We’re only thinking about playing football and having fun. The rest is just chatter. On the pitch there will be the best show for European and world football from Italy, England and the referees.

“We are looking forward to taking to the field even though most of the fans present will be English. We want to do something historic, have a great performance and then we’ll see how it ends.”

The Azzurri, who eliminated Spain in a penalty shootout to reach the title game, are looking to win their second European title. Chiellini and Bonucci know what it is to lose a European final as they are the only remaining players from the Italy side that lost the 2012 title game to Spain.

Roberto Mancini took over as coach of Italy in 2018 after their failure to qualify for the World Cup and Bonucci believes the former Lazio and Internazionale tactician has brought their hunger back.

“Mancini pushed us right from the first day,” Bonucci said. “There we felt everyone’s desire to start again.”

Mancini, meanwhile, says learning to adapt and not always expecting to dominate games has been key to Italy reaching the final.

“If you want to arrive to the end of a tournament like this one, you know you have to adapt to different situations,” Mancini said. “You can’t think you are going to win a World Cup or a European tournament dominating. There are games in which you can suffer because the other teams are strong.

“There are moments during a game in which things don’t go as planned because your rivals are doing things you didn’t think they would do. We are the ones that have to put pressure against England. We are facing a strong group, physically and technically strong, a team that fights. We will have to fight until the end.”

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