England are aiming to win a first major tournament for 55 years when they face Italy on home soil in the Euro 2020 Final at Wembley on Sunday night.
Not since that famous extra-time success over West Germany in 1966 have the Three Lions even reached another showpiece, with painful near-misses at the World Cups of 1990 and 2018 as well as familiar penalty heartache at Euro 96.
But Gareth Southgate has now led England into an exciting new era with a young squad bursting with talent and depth and largely free of the burdens and heavy expectations of the past, with captain Harry Kane’s extra-time goal – the rebound from his own saved penalty – defeating Denmark in the semis after Simon Kjaer’s own goal had cancelled out Mikkel Damsgaard’s stunning free-kick.
Before that, there was the quarter-final thrashing of Ukraine in Rome, the historic last-16 defeat of Germany at Wembley and efficient victory over Croatia and the Czech Republic that secured top spot in Group D.
Now in their first-ever European Championship final, England battle a formidable Italy team that have plenty of momentum of their own after a hugely impressive campaign to this point.
Roberto Mancini’s men held their nerve in a semi-final penalty shootout battle with Spain, while previously recovering from Leonardo Spinazzola’s injury to eliminate the world’s no1-ranked team Belgium in the quarter-finals.
Only in the extra-time last-16 win over Austria did they look even the briefest bit rattled after brushing aside Turkey, Switzerland and Wales to top Group A.
After missing out on qualification for the World Cup in Russia three years ago, the Azzurri have been eager to make up for lost time, putting together a truly formidable run of 33 matches unbeaten. Their last defeat came all the way back in September 2018.
This will be four-time world champions Italy’s 10th major tournament final overall and fourth at the European Championship, where they were runners-up in both 2012 and 2000. Their only success to date came as hosts back in 1968.
The match will take place at Wembley Stadium in London, with over 60,000 fans expected to be in attendance.