Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini reckons England have players on their bench good enough to have reached the final of Euro 2020.
Gareth Southgate’s squad face the Azzurri at Wembley on Sunday looking to win a first major international tournament since the 1966 World Cup.
Much has been made of how Italy’s veteran Juventus central defensive partnership of Chiellini, 36, and Leonardo Bonucci, 34, will cope with England’s youthful frontline.
Chiellini, though, insists it is not just all about shackling the likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, with Italy aware of the strength in depth running through the Three Lions’ squad.
“Obviously Kane and Sterling are different players than the other strikers England have, with their own qualities, but they are all top players,” the Italian captain told a press conference.
“It almost makes me laugh because I think England’s bench could probably have made it to the final on their own because they have some extraordinary players.
“We are going to try to limit their characteristics where we can, but thankfully it is not an individual game.
“It is a team game and it is not necessarily important whether Chiellini and Bonucci come up against Kane and Sterling – ultimately it is whether Italy can beat England.”
Chiellini accepts he and Bonucci will have to be on their toes and use all of their experience to combat the pace of England’s attack.
“Kane and Sterling are not that young themselves – they are no spring chickens. They have a lot of experience, but (Phil) Foden, (Bukayo) Saka, (Jadon) Sancho, that is different,” the veteran defender said.
“Everyone has their own attributes. If I try and match them in a foot race, me against Sterling, I don’t think I would ever beat him to the punch.
“But maybe in situations where the ball is there to be won and it is a slightly more physical 50/50, or if there is a long ball forward from the goalkeeper, I might be more likely to win the header so I need to try to limit their attributes.”
Chiellini is looking forward to a “tough battle, but an exciting one” with the England captain.
“I remember the first time I came up against Harry Kane, it was a friendly in Turin against England. He immediately impressed me for just how many different attributes he has,” Chiellini said.
“Kane is very technical, he shoots well from distance and is good in the air, he takes free-kicks.
“He is a player who impressed me right from day one. I played against him in a (Champions League) game for Tottenham and I am a really big fan of him.”
It has been suggested Sunday could be Chiellini’s last appearance for the Azzurri.
“I really am savouring every last drop of my career,” he said. “It is being well aware that I have to take things one day at a time.
“I cannot really get too far ahead of myself and have long-term plans.”
Chiellini added: “I have felt there is something special and magical in the group.
“As the head coach has told us a great deal over these weeks, we have inched ever closer and now we are just an inch away from completing the job.”
Roberto Mancini’s well-drilled squad edged out Spain on penalties in their semi-final after it finished 1-1 following extra time, extending their unbeaten run through 33 games.
Mancini, who has transformed the Azzurri since taking charge following the disappointment of their failure to reach the 2018 World Cup, has called for one last push from his players.
“We need to stay calm. We know what a tough game it will be, for a number of reasons,” the former Manchester City boss said.
“England are a good side and have a lot of good players on the bench, but if we have made it this far that also means that we are a good team.
“We need to be absolutely concentrated on our football and understand it is the final hurdle.”
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