England defender Tyrone Mings has revealed his mental health "plummeted" during Euro 2020 when he was labeled the side's "weakest link".

The 28-year-old Aston Villa man was drafted into the England XI in Harry Maguire's absence for the side's opening two Euro 2020 games against Croatia and Scotland.

Mings revealed he spoke to a psychologist to cope with the pressure in the build-up as his mental health plummeted due to the public's doubts about his ability.

“I did have a tough time in the lead-up to the opening game against Croatia," Mings told The Sun. “I think I’m a lot more hardened to outside influences now, but my mental health did plummet.

"And I have no shame in admitting that because there was so many unknowns about me going to that game.

“I was probably the only name on the teamsheet that people thought, ‘Not sure about him’. And that was something I had to overcome.

“When 90-95 per cent of your country are having doubts over you, it’s very difficult to stop this intruding on your own thoughts.

“So I did a lot of work on that with my psychologist. I was given a lot of coping mechanisms — whether it was breathing, meditation, or just learning how to bring yourself into the present moment. To stop letting your subconscious take over.

“It was hard. I didn’t really sleep very well before that first game.”

England kept clean sheets in both games, before first choice Maguire returned to the England starting line-up after injury at Mings' expense.

Mings, whose comments come in the wake of US Olympian Simone Biles' withdrawal from Tokyo 2020 citing mental health, said comments made by ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand on BBC about him being the weakest part of the team impacted him.

“Rio DM’d me after the tournament. He’d said I was the weak link, and that Croatia should be targeting me," Mings said.

“He messaged me saying something like, ‘Top-class response — matched your performances on the pitch.’ What a lovely guy.

“It’s just great that we are playing in a time now when you can speak about mental health, and how you are feeling.

“We have seen with Simone Biles you can speak on how you are feeling and hopefully feel supported by many people.”

England all-rounder Ben Stokes has withdrawn from the Test squad to face India in order to prioritise his mental wellbeing and to rest his injured finger.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday revealed Stokes has decided to take an indefinite break from all cricket with immediate effect.

Stokes has been captaining the Northern Superchargers in the inaugural Hundred competition but he will not be in the England side to face India when a five-match series starts next week.

Craig Overton will replace the vice-captain in the squad to take on Virat Kohli's side.

Managing director of England men's Cricket Ashley Giles, said: "Ben has shown tremendous courage to open up about his feelings and wellbeing.
 
"Our primary focus has always been and will continue to be the mental health and welfare of all of our people. The demands on our athletes to prepare and play elite sport are relentless in a typical environment, but the ongoing pandemic has acutely compounded this.

"Spending significant amounts of time away from family, with minimal freedoms, is extremely challenging. The cumulative effect of operating almost continuously in these environments over the last 16 months has had a major impact on everyone's wellbeing.
 
"Ben will be given as long as he needs, and we look forward to seeing him playing cricket for England in the future."
 

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will hold talks with Cricket Australia over coronavirus restrictions during the Ashes amid concerns that several senior players may be reluctant to tour.

Joe Root's side are due to start their bid to regain the urn at The Gabba on December 8, with the fifth and final Test scheduled to begin at Optus Stadium in Perth on January 18.

Multi-format players such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler would face several months away from home, with the T20 World Cup taking place in the United Arab Emirates prior to the Ashes.

It is unclear whether COVID-19 rules may prevent families from travelling to Australia and England players have been in talks this week to seek clarity over restrictions that may be in place.

The ECB and the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) say player and staff welfare will be a priority as they prepare to hold discussions with Cricket Australia.

A joint ECB and PCA statement  said: "This week, several meetings have been held between the England men's players, ECB and Team England Player Partnership to discuss provisional plans for the tour of Australia later in the year.

"All parties are collaborating and will continue to work together to understand protocols around bubble environments, family provision and quarantine rules that will be in place for the tour during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

"With player and management’s welfare paramount, the ECB will discuss planning and operational requirements with Cricket Australia in the coming weeks and how they seek to implement their policies in partnership with state and federal governments.

"All stakeholders are committed to putting player and staff welfare as the main priority and finding the right solutions that enables the England team to compete with the best players and at the highest possible standard that the Ashes series deserves."

England have appointed Lee Carsley as their new Under-21 head coach, with former Chelsea star Ashley Cole named as his assistant.

Carsley is promoted from his role with the England Under-20 team to replace Aidy Boothroyd, who has left after almost five years in the position.

Cole won 107 caps in an illustrious playing career and will be the chief support to Carsley, combining the position with his role as a coach in Chelsea's academy.

"I'm really happy to get this opportunity to support Lee and work with the best youngsters in the country," said Cole, who began his coaching career with Derby County.
 
"I loved playing for the national team and to now get the chance to work as an England coach is a special feeling. 

"St. George's Park is an amazing place and I can't wait to get started. I want to do my best to help young players to develop, and also learn from some brilliant people at the same time."

 

Boothroyd left the Under-21 job on a disappointing note after failing to progress through the group stage of this year's European Championship.

He had taken the role, initially on a caretaker basis, in 2016 after Gareth Southgate was promoted to the senior team.

The new regime will start with matches against Romania and Kosovo in September.

FA technical director John McDermott added: "I'm very happy to be able to confirm Lee's appointment, and to be able to bring in someone of Ashley's stature as his number two, with thanks to Chelsea for their support."

Former Arsenal and Chelsea defender Cole, 40, has also worked as a television pundit since retiring as a player with Derby in 2019.

Prithvi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav have been called up to India's squad for the Test series against England after Washington Sundar, Shubman Gill and Avesh Khan were ruled out.

All-rounder Sundar misses out due to finger injury on his bowling hand that will take longer than expected to recover from.

Gill suffered a stress fracture of his shin during the World Test Championship final defeat to New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl and the opening batsman has returned to India.

Paceman Khan fractured his thumb during a warm-up game against a County Select XI last week.

Batsmen Shaw and Yadav - uncapped in the longest format - have been drafted in as replacements, while Prasidh Krishna and Arzan Nagwaswalla are on standby.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant has been reunited with his team-mates after recovering from coronavirus.

The five-match series starts at Trent Bridge next Wednesday.

 

India squad:  Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav.

Team GB sprint star Dina Asher-Smith hailed Marcus Rashford and his England team-mates for "showing a really good sense of moral leadership for our nation".

Manchester United striker Rashford earned plaudits for his work lobbying the government to provide free school meals during the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year, while he and the rest of the Three Lions squad who reached the final of Euro 2020 this month were also vocal in the fight against racism, continuing to take a knee throughout the tournament in a united showing against racial prejudice.

Asher-Smith, who will be going for gold in the 100 and 200 metres at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, has herself spoken out about her experiences of racism and in March she received the column of the year award by the International Sport Press Association for an article she wrote in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder.

She has also been a vocal supporter of the protests taken by Naomi Osaka and Lewis Hamilton in the past and the 25-year-old, a die-hard Red Devils supporter, hopes to do more in the area of social activism once the Olympics have finished.

"I think what Marcus and all the other players have been doing is fantastic and it made me so proud to watch them and see how they conducted themselves," Asher-Smith told a roundtable of journalists at a pre-Games Team GB call.

"I think they've done fantastically throughout the Euros. I think they surpassed all our expectations in the nicest way.

"They are actually a credit to our nation and showing a really good sense of moral leadership for our nation and I think as sports people we are really proud and definitely as a Brit, and a black Brit, especially throughout the Euros I was really proud of them. I think they represented both the nation and our community incredibly well.

"Social activism is something I'd love to increase, but with the Olympics and everything I've been one-track minded towards Tokyo. But definitely once we're past this point, because I definitely compartmentalise things, when I'm over this little compartment of my life that's definitely something I want to increase because you do have to give back.

"I think it's an essential part of being not only an athlete but someone who has had an opportunity and the only reason I'm here today is because of the good will and hard work of so many other people in teams and throughout my community and so many opportunities I've had, whether that's grants or school teachers taking extra time to take me to a club or telling me about a club.

"It's goodwill of other people so it would be entirely selfish to not give back when you have the opportunity to in your career and I'm really proud of how the footballers have done that throughout the year and how they conducted themselves throughout the Euros." 

 

Athletes competing in Tokyo are set to have more scope to protest at the upcoming Olympics after the IOC relaxed its controversial Rule 50, which previously forbade any "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas".

The IOC will allow athletes to make protests prior to competitions starting, though anyone doing so on podiums or medal ceremonies – similar to the famous Black Power salute made by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics – could face sanctions.

Asher-Smith always expected a climb down, adding: "I think to see the IOC lifted the ban, I was entirely unsurprised. 

"Protesting I see as a fundamental human right, so if you were to penalise someone for standing up against racial inequality how on earth would that go? You know what I mean? How on earth would you enforce that? 

"Would you revoke somebody's medal for saying racism is wrong? I honestly thought that was always going to happen otherwise they would have just been faced with loads of athlete protests at the Games and it would have been really embarrassing, you can't really tell people not to.

"Unless they want to say they're against people saying they're against racism I didn't know how that was going to go.

"Some of the Olympics' most iconic moments have been the Black Power salute by Tommie Smith way back when, and that is something people remember the Olympics for, that's something they're very proud to see at the Olympic Games."

Asher-Smith, the reigning 200m world champion, also hopes she can play her part in inspiring young women to take part in sports over the course of the next two weeks.

"I think the next fortnight has great potential to inspire an entire generation of young women as we do with every Olympics," she said.

"But I think it's becoming increasingly important nowadays. We have significant drop-off rates of young women.

"They hit teenage years, they're all very active in the sporting field or active world, then they hit between 11 and 15 and drop out in their droves.

"Then it's under 10 per cent get enough exercise or get the government recommended guidelines of exercise and engage on aesthetic grounds rather than having fun. 

"I hope the next fortnight shows not only can you make a viable career out of this. Being a sportswoman in whatever you want to do is a viable career it's not just track and field, it's not just tennis, it's not just football there are many avenues you can go down to be a career sportswoman. 

"But also that it's fun, that it can completely change your life, develop lifelong friendships, it's not just about doing sport for a physical goal to lose weight, to gain this, to alter your body but also for self-esteem, your mind, your mental health and to live a fulfilled and enriched life. 

"I think the Olympic Games has an incredible chance to inspire so many women and also women who have had babies, and the Paralympics as well, women who have very different life circumstances to all of us, so I think it's a great platform and showcase for all the sports we love."

Ollie Robinson has been recalled for England's first two Tests against India, with Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes also named in the 17-man squad.

Robinson impressed on debut against New Zealand at Lord's in June, taking seven wickets.

But during the match, historic Twitter posts of a racist and sexist nature made by the 27-year-old Sussex seamer emerged and, following an investigation, he was handed an eight-match ban and fined £3,200 for breaking England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) directives.

Five of the eight games were suspended for two years and Robinson served the others while his case was examined.

He comes back into the fold as captain Joe Root heads into the five-match series, which begins at Trent Bridge on August 4, without Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes due to respective elbow and heel injuries.

Bairstow will provide wicketkeeping cover for Jos Buttler – another player to return having missed the New Zealand series following India Premier League commitments, along with all-rounder Sam Curran – and could also push for a place as a specialist batsman given the meagre efforts of England's middle order in the 1-0 loss to the Black Caps.

 

Stokes played through the pain in the recent ODI series win over Pakistan, returning ahead of schedule from a broken finger to captain a scratch team after a COVID-19 forced all of the initially selected squad into isolation.

James Bracey drops out after two consecutive ducks and a tough examination with the gloves on his maiden venture in the longest format, and there is no place for Dawid Malan.

Haseeb Hameed will again provide an alternative to out-of-form number three Zak Crawley, although Bairstow also filled that slot away from home earlier this year. Following some promising contributions in Sri Lanka he registered three noughts in four outings against India.

All of the England players allocated to franchises in the new Hundred competition will play in the first two matches before joining up with the Test squad.

Bairstow's mooted return to the Test setup brought thinly veiled irritation on Tuesday from Welsh Fire head coach Gary Kirsten, who was hoping to have the Yorkshireman available for the majority of the campaign.

Speaking to talkSPORT, former South Africa opener Kirsten said: "We're hearing that Jonny Bairstow, who we've designated as our captain, is now suddenly becoming a Test cricketer again. So we could have him for maybe one or two games"

 

England squad: Joe Root (capt), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood

Arguably England's best player in their last three knockout fixtures at Euro 2020, Luke Shaw reportedly struggled through games against Ukraine, Denmark and Italy with broken ribs.

The left-back was part of Gareth Southgate's side that suffered shoot-out heartbreak against Italy in the final, but it has become apparent that Shaw was playing through the pain for his country, after suffering a blow to his ribs against Germany in the last 16.

According to the Telegraph, Manchester United will now wait to assess the left-back, whose sole goal at the European Championship represented the fastest to be scored in a final since 1964, ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

The former Southampton academy product was in scintillating form throughout Euro 2020 as he recorded three assists in six games to add to his final strike past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

 

His three assists, two against Ukraine and one against Germany, could only be bettered by Switzerland's Steven Zuber (four).

The 26-year-old (10) created two more chances than any other player for England and, amongst the defenders at the tournament, only Spain's Jordi Alba (12) provided more opportunities.

Shaw was as testing down the left flank for United throughout the domestic season, too, as he created 72 chances. Bruno Fernandes (95) was the sole United player with more to his name.

The Red Devils must now wait for news of Shaw's fitness - potential another post-Euros blow for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Marcus Rashford underwent shoulder surgery.

Italy and England combined to produce a nail-biting finale to Euro 2020, which was enjoyed by an average audience of 6.4 million viewers in the United States.

Those staggering viewership numbers meant the 2020 showpiece became the most-watched European Championship final in the USA, surpassing the previous record from the Euro 2012 final (4.5 million for Spain v Italy). Viewership increased 43 per cent on the 2016 final.

Even the first two games of the NBA Finals failed to produce better viewing figures, with the USA appearing to have savoured a memorable European Championship.

In fact, as Gianluigi Donnarumma's shoot-out heroics clinched Italy's first European Championship title since 1968, the audience in the United States peaked at 8.1 million, according to ESPN figures.

The final, as expected, had the most American viewers glued to their screens but Euro 2020 produced wholesale improvements throughout the tournament.

Across all 51 matches at Euro 2020, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 delivered an average viewership of 1.3 million, a 31 per cent increase on the previous edition in 2016.

The round-of-16 fixtures and semi-final clashes provided the most significant improvements from 2016, with those rounds producing 38 and 37 per cent increases to draw in 1.8 million and 2.5 million viewers on average respectively.

The Football Association has commissioned an independent review into the "disgraceful scenes" that marred England's Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy at Wembley.

England suffered a 3-2 penalty shoot-out loss on home soil to Italy on July 11 following a 1-1 draw after extra time in their first major tournament final in 55 years.

The showpiece match was overshadowed by a security breach that saw a number of ticketless supporters enter the stadium and clash with fellow fans and stewards.

UEFA last week launched its own investigation and hit the FA with four charges relating to fan disorder, including the throwing of objects and the lighting of fireworks.

The unsavoury scenes prompted Julian Knight MP, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS), to write to FA CEO Mark Bullingham demanding answers.

And in a statement released on Monday, the FA has vowed to identify those responsible for the trouble before, during and after the game.

"We are determined to fully understand what happened outside and then inside Wembley Stadium at the Euro 2020 final on July 11," the statement read.

"We informed DCMS at the weekend that an independent review led by Baroness Casey of Blackstock has been commissioned to report on the facts and circumstances involved. 

"It will speak to all parties concerned and include external experts.

"A key emphasis of the findings will be to ensure that lessons are learned and such disgraceful scenes are never able to be repeated. 

"We continue to work with the relevant authorities in support of their efforts to identify those responsible and hold them to account."

The FA was also previously fined €30,000 (£25,630) by UEFA for the behaviour of supporters during the semi-final win against Denmark, which included a laser being shone at Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

England's three-pronged spin attack proved to be the difference as the hosts squared the T20I series against Pakistan at Headingley with a 45-run win.

Jos Buttler returned to skipper England as captain Eoin Morgan sat out and he top scored with a stunning 59 from 39 deliveries at the top of the order.

Moeen Ali (36) and Liam Livingstone (38) supplied explosive middle-order contributions, but England lost wickets frequently and there was a suspicion their 200 all out in 19.5 was a touch shy of what was required in perfect batting conditions in a sweltering Leeds.

But a Pakistan batting line-up that posted 232-6 in a 31-run win at Trent Bridge on Friday were effectively shackled by leg-spinners Adil Rashid (2-30) and Matt Parkinson (1-25) and Moeen's off-spin (2-32), with paceman Saqib Mahmood the pick of the attack thanks to 3-33 that began with the vital wicket of visiting captain Babar Azam (22).

Jason Roy set the tone for England's innings with a huge six and a four off slow left-armer Imad Wasim (2-37) before holing out within the first over.

Dawid Malan scratched around for one off five deliveries – top-edging a sweep off Imad to be caught by Azam Khan – although there were no such problems for Moeen in his blistering 16-ball stay, nor Livingstone, who followed up his incredible century in Nottingham by bludgeoning two fours and three sixes. One of those remarkably cleared the grandstand at the Football Ground End.

Buttler was in typically sublime touch through extra cover and only fell to Mohammad Hasnain (3-51) with a thunderous hit straight to Babar at mid-off.

Jonny Bairstow, Tom Curran and Chris Jordan came and went without being able to produce anything of similar substance and the sense England had been slightly wasteful was heightened as Babar and Mohammad Rizwan (37) added 50 for the first wicket.

Babar skewed a cross-seam delivery from Mahmood to a diving Malan and, as Rashid and Parkinson got into their work, Pakistan were unable to regain their momentum.

A fine return catch from Rashid accounted for Rizwan, while Moeen had Mohammad Hafeez caught behind for 10 and bowled Fakhar Zaman with a beauty to scoop the player of the match award.

England captain Joe Root brought a commendable act of sportsmanship to one of English sport's oldest rivalries on Saturday – although plenty of Yorkshire fans might feel he let Lancashire all-rounder Steven Croft off lightly.

Chasing a meagre 128-7 to win in the T20 Blast Roses match at Old Trafford – Root having top scored with 32 for the visitors – Lancashire slumped to 64-5 in the eighth over.

Croft (26 not out) and Luke Wells (30) embarked upon a rebuilding job that left Dane Villas' side needing 18 from 15 deliveries, at which point Croft collapsed to the ground mid-pitch when trying to run quick single.

The batsman howled in pain and, under instruction from stand-in captain Root, Yorkshire opted not to run him out. After treatment for cramp, Croft was still in the middle when Danny Lamb hit the winning runs and Lancashire secured a quarter-final berth by four wickets.

"As a side we made a very difficult decision under pressure," Root said, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.

"It looked very serious at first glance. In many ways it was a relief it was nothing serious. I am sure there will be many different opinions. Many people would have handled it differently."

Afterwards, Croft paid tribute to the England skipper and his team-mates, suggesting he'd have been able to have few complaints had he been run out.

"Two games in two days at 36 and a bit of sun has done me," he told Sky Sports. "I put the brakes on, they worked, and my legs just cramped up.

"I didn't know where the ball had gone. They could have taken the bails off and credit to them that they didn't."

Italy are European champions and on a long unbeaten streak but should be even better by the time of the 2022 World Cup, according to former forward Gianfranco Zola.

The Azzurri have been transformed under Roberto Mancini since missing out on qualifying for the previous finals in Russia.

Mancini's men won the Euro 2020 final against England on penalties and are now undefeated in 34 matches, the longest run in the team's history.

However, Zola – who earned 35 caps and scored 10 goals between 1991 and 1997 – sees an even brighter future for Italian football.

Despite including 34-year-old Leonardo Bonucci (the oldest scorer in Euros final history) and 36-year-old captain Giorgio Chiellini (the third-oldest player in final history), Italy named only the 12th-oldest squad at the tournament.

"To get into Mancini's shoes and give him hints on how to improve this team is out of question and risky," Chelsea great Zola told Stats Perform.

"As it is, this squad will be even more competitive in the World Cup.

"They will grow in confidence and improve even further because most of the players are young. To me, they will get to an even higher level."

An already impressive Azzurri midfield could also be boosted by the return from injury of Nicolo Zaniolo, the 22-year-old who has not played since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in action against the Netherlands in September 2020.

That was the Roma man's second ACL tear in eight months – having suffered the same injury to his right knee – and checked the progress of a promising career.

 

In 69 appearances for Roma, Zaniolo has scored 14 goals and laid on six assists from 55 chances created. He has also netted twice in seven senior caps at international level.

"Then [in 2022] some players like Zaniolo will be available," Zola added. "If his injuries [have been] absorbed, he will be an important player to give the contribution needed to make this squad even better

"And, to me, some other youngsters will shine, because the long wave of enthusiasm given by this trophy will make many youngsters step up.

"Italy will be competitive at the World Cup – no hints needed for Mancini."

But Zola also anticipates another challenge from beaten Euro 2020 opponents England, who reached their first major tournament final in 55 years.

The average age Three Lions' line-up for the final (26y 328d) was almost two years younger than Italy's (28y 272d) and they also have room to grow.

"It is an extremely young and talented squad," Zola said. "England can only grow and this defeat won't be a problem.

"England, like Italy and Spain, boast many young lads with such room to improve. Let's not forget that England often kept out players like [Jadon] Sancho, [Marcus] Rashford and [Phil] Foden that are very important.

"I would be surprised if England weren't a team to beat in Qatar. They have a bright future."

Gianfranco Zola believes there is little prospect of social media platforms becoming safe spaces for sports stars, warning: "Bad people will always be there."

England footballers Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were subjected to racist abuse online after their penalty shoot-out misses in the Euro 2020 final.

Those failures from the spot helped Italy to land their second European Championship triumph.

There have been calls for the likes of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to police their platforms more effectively, with 19-year-old Saka urging the three tech giants to each step up their game.

Former Italy and Chelsea forward Zola told Stats Perform: "Racial abuse is unjustifiable, unforgivable and unacceptable. I reckon that youngsters have to understand very quick that not all people they come across on social media are good.

"They use it to provoke, insult, abuse and vent their daily frustrations. We have to get used to it and learn how to isolate from this. Especially young people who are famous like footballers.

"These are all unjustifiable attacks but we have to learn how to isolate from it all because these bad people will always be there."

Zola, who enjoyed a seven-year spell at Chelsea and collected 35 caps for the Azzurri, explained there is a "dark side of social media".

He said: "Many people use [social media] in an absurd way and can cause damage to kids who are on social media and are not ready to accept all this.

"If you are into social media, you have to be aware these can be used by people to insult and destabilise. This is the dark side."

Gianfranco Zola has claimed England boss Gareth Southgate was "too conservative too soon" in the Euro 2020 final and suffered the inevitable consequences.

Italy's penalty shoot-out victory over England at Wembley on Sunday has been followed by reports that Southgate could soon be knighted.

That is despite his team falling short when they had home advantage, failing to build on Luke Shaw's second-minute strike that was the earliest goal scored in a European Championship final.

Roberto Mancini's impressive Italy had 19 shots to England's six over the 120 minutes, while also enjoying 65.4 per cent of possession. The Azzurri finished with an expected goals score of 2.16 compared to England's meagre 0.55, underlining their dominance of the chances.

Leonardo Bonucci's second-half equaliser was followed by Italy edging a nervy battle on spot-kicks to land the trophy for the first time since 1968, and Zola sensed England retreated too quickly into their shell.

"Maybe Southgate was a bit too conservative because England boast important players at the highest level," Zola told Stats Perform.

"They were doubtlessly advantaged and having scored after just two minutes gave them further advantages. But especially in the second half, they started defending the goal cushion too early, defending so deep – as they say in England – enabling Italy to find their pace and plays and the equaliser was a natural consequence.

"So Southgate was too conservative too soon.

"Mancini on the other hand was so good. All the subs proved him right. When he subbed [Nicolo] Barella I was expecting more [Manuel] Locatelli than [Bryan] Cristante, but he got that right too as the team kept their pace high, producing quality."

 

Former Italy forward Zola, who won 35 caps for the Azzurri, was surprised by how little influence England's Mason Mount had on the final.

Mount has been impressive in the Premier League for Chelsea, the club where Zola was such a favourite in a seven-year spell from 1996 to 2003.

But in 99 minutes of action against Italy, before being substituted, Mount had only 36 touches of the ball and completed just 15 of 22 passes for a 68.2 per cent success rate. All of Italy's starting XI had a higher percentage than Mount achieved, with Federico Chiesa's 77.8 per cent their lowest mark.

Chiesa was far more threatening than Mount, who was given an advanced midfield role by Southgate, operating just behind Harry Kane but barely having any influence on the game.

In 54 games for Chelsea last season, across all competitions, Mount scored nine goals, had eight assists and created 109 chances. The 22-year-old had one assist in 464 minutes of action at the Euros, creating eight chances over the tournament.

"For sure after what he had shown in the Premier League, in the Champions League and even in the friendlies ahead of the Euros, he didn't shine," Zola said.

"He is young and the long season with Chelsea where he always played may have had an impact on his sub-par performance. Yet, he is a very skilful player and this experience will help him become better and stronger.

"As I am told, he is a level-headed kind of guy so this experience will help him for sure."

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