Italy's players sing their rousing national anthem

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Gareth Southgate has asked England fans at the historic Euro 2020 final on Sunday not to boo the Italian national anthem – pointing out that from his own playing experience it is more likely to fire up Roberto Mancini’s men to extend their 33-game unbeaten streak.

The England manager also revealed that Manchester City prodigy Phil Foden, a key squad player who has not been able to nail down a place in the starting line-up, is to miss the final with a foot injury that he aggravated in training on Friday. “I’d have to say he’s doubtful,” Southgate said, adding that the player would be checked again having missed training on Saturday. “It’s not something that would keep him out for a long time, but it might be that the game comes too soon.”

Harry Kane revealed that the squad had a FaceTime session with Hollywood star Tom Cruise, having been given exclusive access to an unreleased movie of his which they first had to sign confidentiality agreements to be permitted to watch. “I think he was over here in the U.K. and he dialled in and FaceTimed us just to wish us the best as a group,” Kane said, “so that was nice of him.”

Southgate looks set to pick the same team in two consecutive matches for the first time in 37 games for the final, England’s first in a major international tournament since 1966. With Foden likely to come out the matchday squad with injury it leaves the difficult choice of who else misses out on a place on the bench down to two. Brighton defender Ben White has been a regular omission and the last omission will probably come down to a choice between Ben Chilwell and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

England fans at Wembley have booed their way through the German national anthem and, to a lesser extent, the Danish equivalent in the Euro 2020 knockout stages. The Italian anthem which is known by different names but referred to as “Fratelli d’Italia” by Uefa is traditionally sung loudly and proudly by the Italian players.

Phil Foden is likely to miss out through injury

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Southgate said: “In terms of the anthem we would always ask our fans to be respectful of the opposition. We would hope for the same when we travel and I know when our anthem is booed it does inspire me a bit more when I’m away from home. Whatever the intentions might be, there’s a good chance you’re giving more motivation to the opponent.”

Instead Southgate asked for supporters to get behind the players, recalling the change from the early days of his reign in 2016 and 2017 when disenchantment was so great with the team that Wembley crowds could become more preoccupied with launching paper aeroplanes onto the pitch. Now he said he had noticed individual songs being sung about the players. “I heard one about Raheem [Sterling] the other night,” he said. “That will really be a lift to the players because it makes them feel part of a club environment. We’ve had that between the players, but to have it with the fans is incredible.”

Asked what he felt a victory would signify for the English game, Southgate made the point that he and his assistant Steve Holland – a key part of England’s success – had discussed the hope that English coaches might get more opportunities. There has clearly been a step-change in attitudes towards English players across Europe and now, Southgate said he believed an England win could pave the way for the same change of attitudes on English coaches.

Gareth Southgate has led England to their first final since 1966

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“I hope that there’s also a bit more respect for our coaches because I’ve been very conscious that we are representing all English coaches when doing this job,” he said. “And I hope we can break some barriers for them, make it more feasible for English coaches to be given jobs in the Premier League, high profile jobs. Because I do believe there are very good coaches out there and coaches who will be able to do this better than me, moving forward. And they will have more rounded experiences.”

Southgate said he had not yet decided what he would say to the players before the game, with the usual tradition being that captain Kane says the last few words before they leave the dressing room. Southgate said that he usually made his mind up during the day itself, having observed the players’ mood.

“We usually have a meeting about the set-plays in the morning and then I’ll speak to them before we leave the hotel,” he said. “You’re two hours before the game at that point. You want the message to resonate but it’s about how you make the players feel as much as anything. We don’t need to be getting them over-hyped. There will be enough energy and excitement around the stadium due to the occasion itself. We need to keep that calmness that we have had for the whole month.”

England Italy poll

One of Southgate’s finest performances as a player for England was against Italy in the crucial World Cup qualifier in Rome in October 1997 and he was reminded of a crunching tackle of Enrico Chiesa, whose son Federico is now likely to face England on Sunday. Chiesa senior reacted with a shove and both men were booked. “I don’t remember it,” he said. “It would have been rare if I made a tackle, never mind anything else.”

“Italy have had an incredible run [27 wins, six draws]. It’s remarkable for any team. It tells us the size of the task. It means we’ve got to prepare extremely thoroughly. We can’t just roll out and think we’re going to beat the team like that without giving it huge thought and preparation and focus. But it’s a great challenge for us.”