Best bets for the UEFA Euro 2020 final: Italy vs. EnglandESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)
Italy versus England. For all of the history that two of the world's premier soccer countries have, they don't have many memorable head-to-head matchups at major tournaments, particularly in recent years.
Italy did beat England 2-1 in the 2014 World Cup group stage, though that match was quickly forgotten after neither team advanced to the knockout round. Italy also eliminated England on penalties in the Euro 2012 quarterfinals, after a scoreless draw in which the dominant Azzurri had 68% possession and outshot England 36-9.
Sunday's final is set to top all their previous meetings, with either England winning its first European Championship and first major title since the 1966 World Cup, or Italy lifting its first European Championship trophy in 53 years.
Here are my best bets for the final (3 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN/ESPN+).
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
Italy vs. England
Harry Maguire over 1 shot (+175)
England's 6-foot-4 center back is tied for third on the team with seven shots at Euro 2020, and he has played in only four of six games. Unsurprisingly, all seven of his shots have been headers on set pieces, and he has had at least two shots in each of England's three knockout games.
In the four games he has played, Maguire has seven of England's 17 assisted shots from set pieces. England has shown creativity on these opportunities in the past and will certainly target its best aerial threat when it matters most.
Under 4 cards (-110)Between them, Italy and England have played 12 games at Euro 2020, and nine of those games have had three or fewer cards in normal time (which is what this bet considers). A total of 15 cards have been handed out in Italy's games, and 14 have been given in England's matches. Each side has only five cards of its own, with three of England's cards against Germany.
For what it's worth, recent finals with European teams haven't been card fests. Of the past 10 World Cup and Euro finals, five had three or fewer yellows in regulation, three had exactly four and two (the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and Netherlands, and Greece's upset of Portugal at Euro 2004) had over four.
I don't expect either team to replicate the physical tactics of Netherlands or Greece, especially in regulation. The game might get chippy if it reaches extra time, but that doesn't matter for this bet.
England to win the title (-120)Among each side's offense and defense, the unit I trust most is England's defense. The Three Lions have conceded eight shots per game at Euro 2020, including single-digit shots in all four knockout games. Plus, the shots are not high quality, as England has allowed 0.07 expected goals per shot, the lowest in the tournament.
Italy takes 18 shots per game, second most behind Spain, but the shot quality is slightly subpar at 0.10 expected goals per shot (tournament average is 0.12). And while Italy has taken nearly twice as many shots as England (108 to 56), its expected goals aren't very different (11.1 to 10.2).
Italy won't have injured left back Leonardo Spinazzola, whose absence was notable against Spain. Emerson was put in similar positions and could not produce at the same level, with one shot and no chances created in 74 minutes, compared to Spinazzola's six shots and eight chances created over four games.
I also trust England's depth more. Even with player of the tournament candidate Raheem Sterling in the lineup, England might have more attacking talent on its bench than in its first 11, leaving plenty of game-changers, including Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, available for the end of regulation and extra time, should England need a goal.
It's coming home!