Lewis Ambrose

The final is upon us. With the help of @LGAmbrose, the Cloudbet Blog takes a look at what England and Italy will need to do to take home the glory. Expect a tight game, without too many goals, but a guaranteed outpouring of passion.

England hunt for major victory

Fifty-five years since their last one, England are into their second ever men’s international final, and their first ever men’s European Championship final, where they meet one-time European champions Italy. 

They are favoured, but not by much.

Expect excitement, drama, tension and two highly competitive sides going tooth and nail for glory. But don’t expect too many goals.

Defensive excellence has stood these two teams apart

Both sides have made their way to the final without defeat, but neither have blown their opposition away on their approach to Wembley. In Italy’s last four games, two have been level at 90 minutes, and the others had just one goal in them.

England, for their part, have been level at half-time in four of their six matches so far this summer. The games against the Czech Republic and Ukraine were the only times Gareth Southgate’s side scored before the break, while the games against Germany and Ukraine were the only two times more than one goal (if that) has separated the two teams at the final whistle.

If nothing else, Sunday’s final will be tight. Italy have adapted from their usual defensive approach to a more Spanish-style possession game, but they still pride themselves on not conceding goals. England have looked more, well, Italian - prioritising their defensive shape and keeping clean sheets to make it this far.

And it’s worked. The England defence hasn’t given up much at all, conceding the fewest xG per 90 minutes (0.54) in the entire tournament, as well the fewest actual goals - Mikkel Damsgaard’s semi-final free-kick standing alone in that regard. Italy (0.7 xG conceded per 90) aren’t far behind at all, with the third-lowest xG against per 90 this summer.

If nothing else, Sunday’s final will be tight.

The difference comes at the other end. Whereas England sacrifice some attacking output in order to secure things at the back, Italy seem to have struck a much better balance.

The extra-time win over Denmark was the first time England registered over 10 shots in a match. Italy, in contrast, registered fewer than 13 shots in a match for the first time in their semi-final against Spain.

A possession game

The key to that game - and indeed to Sunday’s final - was how Italy were starved of possession. Teams who hog the ball often do so as a way of avoiding danger, but Italy genuinely look to attack whenever they’re in possession. So Spain didn’t let them have it.

Dani Olmo replaced Alvaro Morata as a nominal centre-forward for La Roja and dropped into midfield, helping Spain outnumber Italy in the centre of the park. It’s a trick England could very easily look to replicate with Harry Kane, who roams from his number nine position superbly and delivered his performance of the tournament against Denmark, dropping deep as he does at club level to create overlaps, link play, and progress the ball. It was Kane’s superb through ball for Bukayo Saka that was crucial in creating England’s equaliser.

Italy were limited to just 31% of the possession against Spain, and while England may look to sacrifice possession in the confidence that they’re fine defensive record would help keep them in the game, they may want to consider trying to keep the ball more, with Saka and Raheem Sterling driving beyond Kane as he comes deeper for the ball.

But England are unlikely to dominate the ball and certainly won’t do so to the extent that Spain did. They are more likely to focus on keeping things tight, playing on the break, and threatening from set pieces yet again. While Southgate’s men rank just 19th for shot creating actions per 90 in the tournament, they sit fourth for shots created from dead balls. Italy are no slouches from set pieces either, conceding just eight shots from dead ball situations in their six games so far, but it still probably remains England’s most likely path to goal.

The Azzurri have options

As for the Italy attack, they find themselves hamstrung by the absence of left-back Leonardo Spinazzola. However, this could force them to move to the right side, which would be better in this match anyway, in our opinion. Instead of coming up against Walker, Italy could exploit the spaces behind the more offensive-minded Luke Shaw. On that side, it will be Federico Chiesa who serves as the biggest threat again, with Barella making distracting runs inside him.

Yet England can back themselves defensively by pressing high up the pitch. 

It’s a risk, but one that would not only earn them more possession and encourage the pressing approach that helped Spain starve Italy, but would also play into the Italians’ biggest weakness; no team has been caught offside more often than Italy (3.28 times per 90) all summer. 

With Kyle Walker around to cover, England should trust their offside trap, press in midfield, and try to have as much of the ball as possible. If they play with the courage to do all three, they’ll have a fantastic shot at glory for the first time in generations.

Euro 2020 final - bitcoin betting odds

by Cloudbet staff

According to the bookies, England are slightly favoured to win, at 2.65, compared to Italy at 3.18, while a draw is priced at 3.03.

The odds also support the expectation of a low-scoring game, with the Total Goals market set at just 2 - and the Under paying 1.88 compared to 2.02 on the Over. With that in mind, the specific Win to nil markets interestingly place England at Yes 4.10 / No 1.27 and Italy at Yes 4.70 / No 1.21.

For specific goal-scoring markets, Harry Kane is favoured to score first (5.80), then Ciro Immobile (8.00), Raheem Sterling (8.50) and Andrea Belotti (9.10). Those same players, in that same order, are also favoured to score at any time in the game, though at reduced odds of 3.07, 4.12, 4.28 and 4.68, respectively.

Money Talks - Probability vs The Action

Cloudbet's proprietary Money Talks feature offers a direct representation of the odds on an event (the Probability line) and of the action taken so far by Cloudbet - shown by the Money Talks line.

It's important to realise that the Money Talks line represents the number of bets taken, not the amount taken from bets so far. The result - we can immediately see if bettors are toeing the odds-implied favoured outcome or not.

What we can clearly see based on the action placed with Cloudbet so far is that bettors are backing Italy to an extent that exceeds the odds-implied probability of an Italy win.

It seems that the bettors are not convinced that we won't see more English tears, and further years of hurt...

Perhaps football wont be coming home just yet.  

Jul 10, 2021

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