England and Italy are familiar adversaries on the international scene, having pitted their wits against each other on 27 occasions dating back to 1933.
The Azzurri hold the slightest of edges in those meetings, with ten victories to the Three Lions’ eight, and our trek back through the archives suggests there will be little to separate them again when they reconvene for the UEFA EURO 2020 final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening. We take a look back at six of the standout contests between these European heavyweights.
Italy 2-1 England, 2014 World Cup group stage
The last competitive meeting between these sides was their opening game at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in the tropical climate of Manaus, Brazil, and it was Roy Hodgson’s men left feeling the heat. Claudio Marchisio’s fine strike gave Cesare Prandelli’s charges the lead, but the Three Lions levelled quickly as Raheem Sterling and Wayne Rooney combined to set up Daniel Sturridge. The winner came via the head of Mario Balotelli four minutes into the second half, though it proved the only victory for either side at the finals as both were eliminated in the group stage. Curiously, Björn Kuipers was the referee that day – just as he will be in Sunday’s final.
England 0-0aet Italy (pens: 2-4), EURO 2012 quarter-finals
These two nations are no strangers to a penalty shoot-out and it took a nerve-shredding one to send the Azzurri through on a dramatic night in Kyiv. There were plenty of chances for Prandelli’s side to avoid such a scenario in the first 90 minutes, with Daniele De Rossi rattling the bar and both Balotelli and Riccardo Montolivo blazing over. Alessandro Diamanti also struck the frame of the goal in extra time, but he would have his moment by dispatching the winning penalty after Ashley Young and Ashley Cole could not convert – though Andrea Pirlo’s Panenka spot kick was the one that took the plaudits.
England 2-0 Italy, 1997 Le Tournoi
The Three Lions may not have lifted a major trophy since the 1966 World Cup, but there was much buzz about Glenn Hoddle’s charges after they scooped the silverware at this four-team summer tournament. It all began when they opened the competition with a convincing victory in Nantes against an Italy side they had not beaten in nearly 20 years. Paul Scholes, making his full debut, was the star, setting up Ian Wright for the opener with a glorious long pass then adding the second with a thumping strike before the interval. England beat France 1-0 to secure the trophy even before they succumbed to Brazil in their last game.
Italy 2-1 England, 1990 World Cup third-place play-off
Both sides had suffered heart-breaking defeats on penalties in the semi-finals, but there was an air of celebration at their achievements as they faced off for third place in Bari. Understandably, it took a while for the game to spring into life, though eventually it did when Roberto Baggio danced through to clip Italy in front in the 71st minute. David Platt’s bullet header hauled Bobby Robson’s outfit level before Salvatore Schillaci sealed victory – and the Golden Boot – by winning and converting an 86th-minute penalty for Azeglio Vicini’s hosts.
England 0-1 Italy, EURO 1980 group stage
There was much more riding on these nations’ first EURO finals meeting when they locked horns in Turin in their second group stage match. Both had drawn their openers and, with only the group winners advancing to the final, they knew that defeat would end their hopes. Enzo Bearzot’s team seized their chance, Marco Tardelli turning in Francesco Graziani’s 79th-minute cross to keep their hopes alive against an England side that hit the post through Ray Kennedy. The Azzurri could not break down Belgium in their final Group 2 outing, however, and would finish fourth after losing the third-place game to Czechoslovakia.
Italy 0-4 England, 1948 friendly
This was England’s first ever success away to Italy and remains their biggest. The margin of victory underlined the quality of a star-studded England team containing the likes of Billy Wright, Wilf Mannion and Stanley Matthews – and they were just the high-profile names not to get on the scoresheet! Stan Mortensen struck early from the narrowest of angles and Tommy Lawton swept home a second before half-time for Walter Winterbottom’s purring machine. A quickfire double from the great Tom Finney – the first from a delightful Mannion cross – capped an emphatic win.