Leonardo Bonucci believes that playing the Euro 2020 final against England at Wembley will give Italy extra motivation and has said they are not afraid of facing Gareth Southgate’s side there.
The Juventus defender was part of the Italy team that lost 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012 against Spain and will pick up his 109th cap on Sunday. He refused to concede that England had an advantage for the final even though they will be on home turf and a limited number of Italy supporters, including president Sergio Mattarella, are expected to be in attendance.
“We are looking forward to going to Wembley on Sunday, even though there will be a mostly English crowd,” Bonucci said. “Being there will be additional motivation for us – we want to achieve something historic and we will do everything we can to play a great match. We will play at their home but we are not afraid of that.”
At 34, Bonucci remains the junior partner of Italy’s central-defensive unit with the 36-year-old Giorgio Chiellini. Their partnership has been the bedrock of Italy’s 33-match unbeaten run under Roberto Mancini, and there is speculation that Chiellini could announce his retirement from international football after the final.
“The Euros will end on the 12th,” Bonucci said, “and on the 13th we [he and Chiellini] will go on holiday together, so this sums up our relationship on and off the pitch.”
The man who José Mourinho once said could “teach defending at Harvard” with Chiellini, was complimentary about England’s record of having conceded only once at Euro 2020, after tipping them before the tournament as contenders to win. The bad news for Harry Kane is that Italy’s centre-halves, having faced Romelu Lukaku and Álvaro Morata in the last two rounds, are relishing the prospect of trying to nullify the Tottenham striker.
“He is a very famous player – one of the best strikers in the world,” Bonucci said. “We have the chance to play against three of the best forwards in the world and that is also a stimulus to do better and not concede any goals.”
As for the pace of England’s wide players, even Bonucci admitted he was fearful of the threat they can pose. “It’s youngsters versus veterans so let’s say so, yes!” he said. “The England forwards are very strong and are great players so we will need to be very cautious in our defence. We know how they can bring difficulties for us so we will need to pay a lot of attention to the pace of their forwards.”