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Football is obviously coming home regardless of which team England inevitably brush aside in the final, but first we must have a game to determine which nation will clap Sir Gareth Southgate and his noble heroes off the pitch on Sunday.
The outcome of this match is likely to rest upon to whose will it is played. Spain are the only side in the semi-finals who have deserved to win all five of their matches according to the underlying statistics, and they have accumulated the most expected goals and clear-cut chances of any team by a comfortable margin.
Tuesday 20:00 – Italy v Spain
BBC One / RTÉ Two
But – cliché alert – Italy have been remarkably strong defensively and their ability to close out a game once they are in front is a sight to behold. If you happen to be unaware of their mastery of the dark art of gamesmanship, watch the last 15 minutes of their victory over Belgium in the previous round.
It all adds up to make this match very difficult to predict. These countries have 11 victories each from the 37 meetings over the years, with the Italians winning at Euro 2016 while Spain got a draw in the group stage and enjoyed a 4-0 stroll in the final four years earlier.
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Based on the odds, this will be their closest clash at the European Championships since 2008, and that one went all the way to penalties. And history shows that matches at the Euros have fewer and fewer goals as the knockout rounds go past, which makes sense with the tension increasing as the teams get closer to the ultimate prize.
With Roberto Mancini’s side holding the better defensive record, that makes them the tip to win the match. Italy have conceded just twice in their five games – one penalty and one goal from a corner – and came into the tournament on the back of eight successive wins to nil.
With Spain having conceded more clear-cut chances than the other three semi-finalists combined, the Italians should be able to score and keep the back door closed with some classic catenaccio to reach their fourth European Championship final.
From Euro ’96 onwards, when the tournament first expanded to having at least 16 teams, the 12 semi-final matches in this competition have seen a total of 24 goals.
That’s two per game maths fans, and if we disregard a couple scored in extra time – as we must as per the Over/Under Goals Markets – then the average obviously drops lower still. In the last quarter of a century, just four matches at this stage of the Euros have featured at least three goals in regular time.
And matches between these sides are traditionally low scoring too. The Spanish triumphed 3-0 last time they met, but as Alvaro Morata scored that should have been a sign that something out of the ordinary had occurred. The five games prior to that all saw under 2.5 goals and everything is pointing towards the same outcome on Tuesday evening.
Italy have had six different scorers at the tournament, none of whom has netted more than twice. This makes them a bit of a no starter in the goalscorer markets as there’s lots of choice and no individual player in red hot form.
However, they do have a man who is due an assist. There have been three players at Euro 2020 who have created at least 10 chances without setting up a goal, and Daniel James and Ricardo Rodriguez have already gone home.
Lorenzo Insigne is the third member of the unfortunate trio, and the goal scoring opportunities he has supplied have been worth 1.1 expected assists. The Napoli man deserves to tee somebody up for a goal this summer and he can break his Euros duck against Spain.
There’s every chance Insigne will lay a chance on for Ciro Immobile in this game, just as he did in their previous match against Belgium. Assuming the Lazio man isn’t play acting in the penalty area to act as a distraction again.
Immobile has had the second-most shots of any player at Euro 2020, and the good thing from a betting perspective is that he has been consistent rather than boosting his figures with one particularly strong game.
Italy’s number 17 has had at least three shots in all four of his appearances at the tournament, also hitting that mark in 20 of his 34 starts in Serie A this season. Immobile will have a trio of goal attempts here to round off our Bet Builder in style.
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MORE ITALY v SPAIN TIPS
- CHEAT SHEET: A 22/1 Bet Builder for Italy v Spain using Andy Robson’s data
- Phil Thompson’s 8/1 punt and score prediction for Italy v Spain
- TRADER VERDICT: Paddy’s top number-cruncher has his say on Italy v Spain
ENGLAND v DENMARK TIPS
- Phil Thompson’s England v Denmark best bets – including an 11/2 play
- England v Denmark CHEAT SHEET: A 26/1 Bet Builder using Andy Robson’s data
- TRADER VERDICT: 1 slick pick for Wednesday’s Wembley showdown
- BET BUILDER: Our 43/1 wager for Wednesday’s England v Denmark clash
READ MORE ON EURO 2020
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- Euro 2020: How Italy, Spain, England and Denmark made it to the semi finals
- Euro 2020 Golden Boot: Can Sterling, Kane or Immobile catch Ronaldo & Schick?