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It’s the unbeaten streak against the no trophies streak

As I sit here contemplating Sunday’s Euro 2020 final a phrase keeps popping into my mind … it has to end sometime.

Italy go into the game on the back of a 33-game unbeaten run … it has to end sometime.

England haven’t won a major football tournament for 55 years … it has to end sometime.

Will these streaks come to an end soon?

If Italy win, both will continue. If England win both come to an end. Thinking about it just makes me nervous. There are those who will say ‘it’s just another football match, what is all the fuss about?’

Well, to them I would say that, although perhaps misquoted, Bill Shankly wasn’t a mile off when he said that football wasn’t a matter of life or death, it was more important than that. Of course, that phrase sounds a bit hollow and uncaring given the anguish the world has been going through over the past 18 months. But I try not to take it too literally. In attempting to convey how important football was to him, the great ex-Liverpool manager touched on sentiments all football fans could understand. Of course, if he really did say those words they were a serious overstatement. But, I think many football fans knew what he meant.

The two teams I predicted would make the final are there. But didn’t both Italy and England really struggle?

Both required extra time and Italy needed penalties.

For large sections of the first semi-final I thought Spain outplayed Italy. They can count themselves really unlucky not to be the ones facing England next up. Yes, the Italians scored an excellent goal, but, in sitting back to defend the 1-0 lead, they almost came a cropper. Spain equalized with a well worked goal from Morata who was both hero and villain on the night by missed the crucial spot kick in the penalty shoot out.

When Morata stepped up, my Thai wife was leaning over my shoulder, trying to take an interest. I said to her ‘he doesn’t fancy this, he’ll miss’. And no, I don’t say that as every player steps up in the hope that every once in a while I’m right.

A penalty, of course, featured prominently for England also. Was it a penalty? The referee thought so and VAR didn’t overrule him. I’ll take a bit of luck.

Lord knows, things have gone against England in the footballing past.

I can remember standing at the bar in Hemingways in Jomtien (it was called Shenanigans at the time) watching England V Germany in a World Cup game in 2010. England were 2-1 down when Lampard crashed the ball against the underside of the crossbar and TV pictures showed it clearly crossed the line before spinning back out. England lost the match, but I’m convinced they would have been in the ascendancy had the goal stood as the game would have gone to 2-2. German fans in the pub said it was schadenfreude for Hurst’s goal in the 1966 World Cup. Distinct similarities, different result.

How confident am I that England will win on Sunday? Not overly. But, as I said at the start, streaks have to end sometime. I am in complete agreement with those who say England will never have a better chance. Home turf, some more than decent players with much talent in reserve – yes, it could be England’s time.

But Italy will have something to say about that and their record in terms of major tournament wins is much, much better (four World Cups and one Euros compared with one World Cup for England).

England will find themselves up against a very experienced centre-back pairing for Italy in Chiellini (36) and Bonucci (34). These two have played a lot of football in the past few weeks. I’m hoping (he says, clutching at straws) that, as the match wears on, they will tire. England have some quick forwards if they do.

Okay, it’s prediction time. I got all the semi-finalists and the finalists right.

It has to end sometime. But not on Sunday please. I’m predicting a 1-0 win for England. Heart ruling head? Let’s see.

Two sub-plots:

In my regular job we have an editorial conference at 9.30 each Monday. It has been moved back half an hour to “allow Dave to sleep off the booze after the match” as my editor put it. I did ask if, on that basis, it could be put back half a day, but was unsuccessful.

In the UK, we are reading of an England supporter named Sam Astley whose girlfriend won tickets to the England V Denmark semi-final, but he could not go because he had something more important to do – donate stem cells for bone marrow surgery/research. Fortunately for Sam, one of the tournament sponsors has found him a ticket for the final in recognition of his selfless act.

Win it for people like Sam, England!

 

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that, it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.