England train ahead of Italy Euro final
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England boss Gareth Southgate has reportedly chosen to drop Bukayo Saka for this evening’s historic Euro 2020 final against Italy. The Arsenal utility man has excelled for the Three Lions on the right flank and produced a brilliant display against Denmark on Wednesday, but could be left out of the starting team to face the Azzurri under the lights at Wembley Stadium.
The match, which represents England’s first appearance in the final of a major tournament since 1966, will see the hosts return to the five-at-the-back system that engineered the win over Germany in the round of 16, according to The Sun and Sky Sports News.
Kieran Trippier is expected to come in at right wing-back to make up the defensive wall that will be tasked with shutting out an Italy side that has not tasted defeat on any occasion since 2018.
Southgate’s reported decision to drop Saka to the bench was prematurely endorsed by Gary Neville, who spoke highly of the 19-year-old’s impact at the Euros but suggested that Sunday’s all-important clash may be a step too far at this moment in time.
The Manchester United icon told ITV that England can benefit from leaving Saka out in favour of Jadon Sancho or Marcus Rashford despite the Arsenal star’s impressive performance against Denmark.
“I did agree with bringing him back [for Denmark] because I thought he had been the liveliest of the forward players, alongside Raheem Sterling,” said Neville.
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“I think Saka has been the best one out of the lot [Jack Grealish, Sancho, Rashford and Phil Foden]. I am not sure he will start on Sunday.
“I am usually hopeless with predictions, in terms of working with Sky, but I don’t think he will play on Sunday. I think that might be too much for him.
“What he did [against Denmark] and the amount he has given in this tournament. I just think we will see somebody else – I think it could be a game for Rashford or Sancho.
“But I don’t think we will see Saka on Sunday. I might be completely wrong. I have been battered before for selections.”
Neville’s opinion appears to be shared by Southgate, who could opt to introduce Saka as an impact player during the latter stages of the match against Italy.
The occasion represents the biggest game in English football since the legendary World Cup win 55 years ago, but Southgate is determined to avoid the prospect of his side crumbling under the pressure.
Speaking to the media on Saturday evening, the 50-year-old urged his players to stay calm and keep their heads as they look to write their own chapter of footballing history.
“We don’t need to be getting them overhyped,” Southgate told reporters.
“There will be enough energy and excitement around the stadium due to the occasion itself. We need to keep that calmness that we have had for the whole month.
“We’ve dealt with it really well. The game against Scotland, we were disappointed with how it went, but it was a big occasion for us.
“Germany was another one and then the quarter- and the semi-final. The players have coped remarkably well and I’m certain they will do so again.”
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