SVEN GORAN ERIKSSON: Southgate should stick to his guns for the final

SVEN GORAN ERIKSSON: Gareth Southgate should stick to his guns for Euro 2020 final against Italy… I have a feeling it will be England’s day due to their solidity, pace and scoring options

  • Gareth Southgate was right to stick to his ideas of building a strong defence 
  • His principles have taken his country all the way to the Euro 2020 final 
  • England’s pace and strength makes them favourites to beat Italy on Sunday 
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here

England are my favourite team after Sweden and I worked with Italy boss Roberto Mancini for nine years so whatever happens on Sunday, I can be happy for the winners. But I think England are favourites win the match and lift the trophy.

Gareth Southgate was part of my squad for the 2002 World Cup and it did not surprise me to see him become a coach. He was always very focused on what we were doing, always thinking a lot and sometimes we had a few discussions after he wasn’t chosen in the starting XI. It made him suffer to sit on the bench because he wanted to play but he was always professional and never did anything silly.

He has built a team who are very secure and very difficult to break down, and he should stick to those ideas. I thought before the tournament that England would be very difficult to play against – they defend well, they are physically strong, they have pace and now they have two goalscorers.

Gareth Southgate was part of my squad for the 2002 World Cup and it did not surprise me to see him become a coach

I didn’t expect Raheem Sterling to score as many times as he has – and now Harry Kane has woken up, too. 

Because of these options it is will be very dangerous for Italy to send too many players forward when they attack, and it will help England a lot to play at Wembley.

Southgate was criticised at the start for his defensive style of play but you can see it was the right thing to do because they are in the final. It is clear he knows his own mind. 

Look at the Denmark game – he sent on Jack Grealish in the second half, and then took him off again in extra-time when he needed to put on Kieran Trippier to protect the result. It’s unusual to see a coach be prepared to do that in such a high-pressure moment. 

I didn’t expect Raheem Sterling to score as many times as he has in the tournament so far

Harry Kane has also woken up and England now have two dangerous goalscoring options

Mancini is the same. I have known him since I took over at Sampdoria in 1992 and of all the players I have worked with, he was the one I knew would become a coach. 

Even now, when we speak, he will call me ‘Mister’ – the Italian equivalent of ‘Gaffer’. I’ve told him he can call me Sven but he says no, he can’t bring himself to do it. It’s nice that he still shows that respect.

Playing England in a final at Wembley will be the maximum for him as a coach. Don’t forget he lost a European Cup Final there for Sampdoria against Barcelona in 1992, shortly before I took over, and he worked at Manchester City for four years.

His life is football, and it has been like that since the day I met him. He was ‘Mr Sampdoria’ – he meant everything to that club. Once a fortnight, he would invite the whole team to a good seafood restaurant outside Genoa and he would always pay the bill.

He was so focused on everything that once I told him ‘How can you concentrate on the game? You have been thinking like a coach, a physio, a kitman.’ He lived football, probably about dreamed football. He was always asking questions about training, suggesting ideas. Sometimes he had good opinions, but other times I would say ‘Come on, Mancio’. 

Southgate was right to stick to his defensive style because it has taken England to a final 

His understanding of the game was incredible. Against my better judgement, he persuaded me he could play in central midfield – and we went on a 17-game unbeaten run. He didn’t make tackles but he always knew where the ball was going to come. It surprised me as I had always thought he was a pure No 10.

I took him to Lazio in 1997 and he was one of a number of players I worked with there who have become coaches – Mancini, Diego Simeone, Sergio Conceicao, Simone Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Matias Almeyda. It’s the best club side I ever coached. They were winners but there was something else – they were always thinking about the game, especially in matches.

Mancini has brought that mentality to Italy, like Southgate too England. There are many similarities between the teams. Neither is like Spain, who will play 100 passes before they get a shot on goal. Maybe Italy are even more direct than England, as Mancini was always very strong at counter-attacking football.

In the 1990s, the Premier League was always a very physical league but not as technical as La Liga or Serie A – but that’s not the case anymore. The Premier League is excellent, both technically and physically, and it’s given the England team a very good basis for this tournament. 

Roberto Mancini has brought the winnning mentality we had at Lazio to his Italy side

One thing that always made me curious about English and Italian players was how they used their free time. Italian players can go to a café and stay there for half a day, just talking and drinking coffee. 

With the English players, though, we worked out quickly that we had to find things for them to do in their free time – just like Swedish players. So we organised shopping trips, fishing trips. They didn’t like just to spend time doing nothing in particular.

I have enjoyed watching both teams in this tournament. Sterling has been extremely good for England. I worked with Federico Chiesa’s dad, Enrico, at Sampdoria and you can see Enrico in everything Federico does on the pitch – whether it’s good or bad, he’ll always make something happen. 

Because of their solidity, pace and scoring options, I have a feeling it will be England’s day – but may the best team win.

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