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The Stage Is Set For The Euro 2020 Final Between England And Italy

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The stage is set for the men's Euro 2020 soccer final. Italy and England, two countries with some of the most insatiable soccer fans in the world, will face off on Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London. And England has not reached the final of a major tournament in 55 years - 55. Meanwhile, the Italians seem pretty near invincible - a 33-game streak without a loss. Well, we wanted to get a preview and hear how fired up fans are in both countries, so I am joined now by writer Nels Abbey in London. Hey there, Nels.

NELS ABBEY: Hello.

KELLY: And Jason Horowitz of The New York Times. He is in Rome. Hey, Jason.

JASON HOROWITZ: Hello. Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Nels, I'm going to let you kick off. Y'all have home field advantage. What is the mood like in England?

ABBEY: It could not be more excited. It's ecstatic. It's such an achievement to even reach the final. But the feeling in the air right now is that we're coming home with the gold.

KELLY: Jason, how about in Rome?

HOROWITZ: Well, I mean, I wouldn't ever think that - Romans or Italians thinking that they're invincible. They always think that something could go wrong. So I think that there is a little bit more trepidation here about - that they've made it this far, and they can't believe that they've made it this far. Something could always go wrong. But the excitement...

KELLY: Thirty-three games without a loss is hard to argue with, though, even (laughter) for the Italian psyche, no?

HOROWITZ: But those aren't all wins, right? Those are ties also. And you have to remember that the Italian side didn't even qualify for the World Cup back in 2017. So this is all sort of unexpected. And everyone is beyond excited, obviously. Every bar is packed. Every piazza is packed.

KELLY: People walking around, like, with the Italian flag and all the rest of it.

HOROWITZ: Yeah, everyone's wearing, you know, the Italian blue colors. When they won the semifinal match, you know, I couldn't sleep till 3:00 in the morning, not just from the excitement and going hoarse myself from screaming (laughter) from the rafters, but because the tradition here is you honk your horn for hours. And so it was just - the entire city was just - it sounded like a giant traffic jam.

KELLY: Total chaos. Nels, back to you. The England team - it's - I mean, they haven't reached the final of a major tournament in 55 years. What is different about this team that they've made it so far?

ABBEY: The weight of expectation is not on them in the way that it was - what we once called the golden generation, actually very, very woefully underperformed. This is very, very cutting-edge generation. These are truly, truly, truly, truly world-class footballers. Additionally, the other thing, too, is that the British Premier League is arguably the most dominant football league in the world today. So these are young people who are playing, who are fighting for places in the best teams in the world against some of the best players in the world today. So it really - steel has sharpened steel. And it has made them very, very good, very, very outstanding players, and also, too, collectively, an outstanding team.

KELLY: For Americans watching who maybe don't know all the players, don't know all the backdrop, one thing you would point us to watch for in the match, a particular moment, a particular player - Jason, how about you?

HOROWITZ: Sure. I mean, the player in Italy who's sort of electrified the country is Federico Chiesa. And he is young. He's 23 years old. His dad played professional football even at the European and World Cup level. You know, when he gets the ball, he looks to score. And in Italy, that's - you find a lot of passing. You find a lot of sort of - you know, the cliche about Italians was that they played this catenaccio defense. It was always very contained, and you were never pushing the ball. These guys push the ball. And when Federico Chiesa gets the ball, he really has - I don't know. Do we even say eye of the tiger anymore? I don't know. But he's...

KELLY: You just said it, so yes.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: Nels, how about you?

ABBEY: I think the standout talents for us have been of course Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, who is the Tottenham captain, and Saka, who is a young British Nigerian. He plays for Arsenal. He's brilliant. When you're watching them, you're watching a team that's really, truly spoiled for choice in terms of quality, in terms of talent. You're going to see a very, very exciting game on Sunday. This is it - 55 years or so since we've qualified for a final. We're not coming home without the gold.

KELLY: That is writer Nels Abbey, who'll be watching in London, and Jason Horowitz of The New York Times in Rome. Thanks, you two. Good luck.

HOROWITZ: Thank you.

ABBEY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEW ORDER SONG, "WORLD IN MOTION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.