Some parts of Italy’s media warmed up for Sunday’s Euro 2020 final between Italy and England by accusing the home side of arrogance, a lack of technical quality and even being party to a dark international conspiracy.
Ahead of the match at Wembley Stadium — the first time England’s men have appeared in the final of a major international football tournament since 1966 — some Italian commentators cited the England fans’ enthusiastic embrace of the chant “it’s coming home” as evidence of misplaced overconfidence.
“We Italians believe we can lose, the English think they have to win,” wrote Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini in the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. “That’s why, often, we do better than them. In our attitude we mix caution, experience and superstition. Their attitude is a mixture of pride, imprudence and impatience.”
He went on to point out that the Italian men’s national football team, known as the Azzurri, have won four World Cups and one European championship — while England have won just one World Cup 55 years ago.
“The motto that sounds in English stadiums these days should be corrected: Football is coming home — but trophies not yet,” he said.
In the Italian daily Domani, Pippo Russo noted that the chants of “it’s coming home” were ironic as they were being sung by fans of “a country that can only succeed at home”, in reference to the 1966 World Cup victory, secured in another final at Wembley.
Resurrecting the more recent ghosts of Euro 1996, Giuseppe Pastore noted in Il Foglio, another Italian newspaper, that “English fans are so persuaded and pervaded by the desire to raise a cup after 55 years that they amiably gloss over the origins of that song (Three Lions) . . . which was recorded to celebrate a European title they would win at Wembley that they never won, beaten on penalties in the semi-finals by Germany”.
About the England team he noted that Italy’s opponents would be “a rare case of a tactically shrewd English national team” and that the English would start as the “great favourites” for the final.
Elsewhere, some leading figures in Italian football noted the improvement of the English national side compared with previous disappointing incarnations, but did not appear particularly worried about Italy being outclassed on the pitch.
Fabio Capello, a highly decorated former Italian international and coach who managed the English national team between 2008 and 2012, praised the current England team’s work ethic but played down their players’ level of skill.
“England is an interesting team, not yet a great one,” Capello said. “In the midfield, they do not have much quality, but they are all people who work”.
Earlier in the week, after England beat Denmark with a controversially awarded penalty kick, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy’s largest national sports newspaper, published an article alleging an unsubstantiated conspiracy that Uefa, European football’s governing body, was favouring England to help its team reach the final.
This, the article argued, was connected to the UK government having blocked controversial plans by some large European football clubs to set up a breakaway “super league” earlier this year, which Uefa strongly opposed. The article has since been removed from the newspaper’s website.
There has also been much commentary in the Italian press about the advantage provided to England of having played almost all of their matches in London, including the final. Ironically, England’s one match away from London was played in Rome — a 4-0 thrashing of Ukraine in the quarter-finals.
Antonio Conte, a former Italian international and national team manager between 2014 and 2016, said however, that playing a final at home could be a double-edged sword for England.
“England have been waiting for this match for ages: they have never won the European Championship and an international success has been missing since 1966,” Conte said. “Wembley can be a huge boost but at the same time it can also be a ballast — the players could feel the pressure”.