After a whirlwind five weeks, the Euro 2020 tournament will draw to a close on Sunday, with Italy and England squaring off in a winner-take-all showdown. The championship match is the last chance for fantasy managers to improve their standings and beat their rivals, and no single decision will affect outcomes more significantly than the choice of captain. To help you nail this critical decision, Never Manage Alone staffers share their ideas and the logic behind them. We hope you find their perspectives useful.
(For additional fantasy resources ahead of the final, please see MiQ’s Player Picks article, as well as Dhivakhar’s piece on his transfer plans.)
The captaincy decision will be the toughest and perhaps the most important of the final. Raheem Sterling is the front runner to take my armband. The Man City star has had a fantastic Euro 2020 so far, scoring three goals with a non-penalty xG of 3.92, which is the highest among all players. Harry Kane is the safer option though as the Tottenham talisman has four goals with a non-penalty xG of 3.57 plus he has England’s PKs in his locker.
For a differential strategy of captaining a defender, Harry Maguire and Giovanni Di Lorenzo are the best options. The Man United captain has scored 1 goal with a per 90 xG of 0.15 and is a serial threat from set-pieces while the Napoli right-back has a per 90 xG of 0.12 and is Italy’s most attacking defender after Spinazzola’s injury. To know how per 90 xG and xG stats work, check out the glossary of our quarterfinals player picks article.
It has to be Harry Kane. Clean sheets are too fragile for me to trust any defender with my armband (although it’s not inconceivable that this game could go to PKs tied 0-0, locking in clean sheets for all defenders and keepers from both teams!). While Raheem Sterling frustrates his owners with his profligacy in front of goal, Kane is a world-class finisher who knows how to put away his chances. Plus he is England’s undisputed first-choice PK taker; if you’re not going to captain him then that fact alone makes him essential to at least own.
England’s No. 9 has more goals in this tournament than any other active player, and Betfred rates him 17/10 to score again on Sunday. If he does he’ll tie Patrik Schick and Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Euro 2020 Golden Boot, and a brace would see him claim the title outright. Don’t think for a minute that that won’t be on the mind of the man who just won the EPL’s Golden Boot.
At this point my armband is still on Harry Maguire. He goes forward for every England set piece near the box, and he (or his head) seems to always be the target. If not for a brilliant Schmeichel save, he would have been on the score sheet against Denmark. And with the two most stingy defenses meeting each other in this final, a clean sheet is a very possible bonus (and even David’s nil-nil AET scenario is depressingly realistic).
However, I must admit that the CS bonus is more possible for defenders who are likely to be withdrawn in that magic time-window between 60’ and when the first goal is conceded. That’s how Emerson earned +6 while so many other defenders finished the semis at +2 (or worse), so I might look for a wing-back whose minutes will be managed (e.g. Emerson himself).
At a neutral site, Italy would be the favorite. With Wembley Stadium the locale, England could actually have a slight edge. Even so, between the two most defensive teams in the tournament, I’m leaning toward the Azzurri to win a cautious, low-scoring affair; I’m feeling a 1-0 kind of vibe. If Ciro Immobile were the PK taker, I’d go with him as captain, but no such luck. The problem with picking Italy’s attack is that the scoring is spread around and also that Jorginho is their PK taker, and there’s no point picking him since he rarely scores any other way. On top of that, the Three Lions have conceded a grand total of once in the entire tournament thus far.
If I don’t fancy England to score, I can’t feel good about backing Harry Kane or Raheem Sterling. By the process of elimination, I’m going with Emerson Palmieri.
Holding my nose and crossing my fingers, I’m hoping that he can deliver a clean sheet plus an assist or possibly even a goal. Replacing the injured Leonardo Spinazzola during the quarterfinal and then deputizing in the semifinal against Spain, Emerson did a fair impersonation, bombing forward with aplomb to bring a wealth of offensive threat. Another reason to stay away from attackers? The way this tournament has gone, honestly it would be fitting if the only scoring came via the own goal... I just hope it doesn’t deflect in from my captain!
My first instinct is to go with Harry Kane as the England PK taker with four goals in his last three games. And while I might go that way in the end, right now I’m eyeing Luke Shaw. Kane is going to be heavily captained, and Shaw won’t be. If I’m going to move up the table at all, I need something a little different. Shaw becomes that differential captain. England has conceded only once. Shaw has added three assists to his clean sheet tally. We’ll see how I feel before kick-off!
This is definitely a heart versus mind pick. Raheem Sterling is the most valuable team player of the tournament so far. Without his resurgence, England would not be in this final now, delighting a nation after more than half a century of heartache. However, my hunch to win this final with the thinnest of margins is Italy.
I’m sitting at 51k overall in Euro fantasy, which I’m happy enough with. That said, with the generous number of final day transfers we have, and with the consensus thought leaning in the direction of a low-scoring final, I’m going with with a differential pick. I’m taking a punt that Federico Chiesa will find a moment of brilliance to break the deadlock. Like Sterling, Chiesa has been electric and individually creative when he’s been on the pitch. Half of the Italy squad could score, but Chiesa is a representation of the future for Italy, and I’m betting he gets his chance for glory.
This could go to extra time, in which case I’m looking forward to the coin-flip between Giorgio Chiellini and Harry Kane. Anyone who watched Chiellini low-key mess with Jordi Alba before the Italy/Spain penalty shootout knows exactly what I mean. Television gold.
As an Englishman, I will of course be backing England in the final, so I will stick with one of our players for the captaincy. Harry Kane started slow in the tournament but gradually grew into it and doesn’t look bad value. But Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are fantastically dominant center-halfs, so I fear Kane will find clear chances hard to come by. Raheem Sterling is one of the first names on Gareth Southgate’s team-sheet and should cause Italy some problems, so he currently has my armband. If I did go with an Italian player, I would most likely pick Ciro Immobile this time around, but anyone from their front three isn’t bad.
As others have already said, Harry Kane seems the safe pick, so if you want to maintain position, he seems the obvious one to go for — and spot kicks do seem a depressingly likely way for either defensive side to score. For a differential, I like several of the midfielders who might start. For England that could be Jadon Sancho (is he now rotating with Bukayo Saka?) or maybe it’s Phil Foden’s turn. But thinking about it, maybe Mason Mount is the one.
I’ll be taking a close look at who does start — even Jack Grealish is possible, and I may well go with whoever is starting of these. If you fancy Italy (as a partisan Englishman I can’t bring myself to split my loyalties by captaining an Italian, but I can see the logic for a neutral to do so). Last time out the pick would have been Federico Chiesa, but Lorenzo Insigne always looks a menace who could come up with something special.
Since we’ll know the lineups before having to decide, I’ll probably change my mind 25 times before settling on the wrong choice.
Due to the unpredictability of the final, selecting a captain is probably the most difficult task facing fantasy Euros managers right now. On paper, it looks like a balanced matchup that could easily swing either way. Most importantly for fantasy managers, it has all the makings of a low-scoring affair.
At this moment my heart says Ciro Immobile; I just have that gut feeling that he will be the hero for Italy. Although he has failed to score in Italy's last three games, my gut keeps telling me he's the go-to man for the final. So Ciro Immobile it is!
England has all the advantages in the world except one, and that is having 24 hours less rest than the Italians. But England will be playing at home, has played extra time only once (though it was most recently), and was twice able to rest key players (vs the Czech Republic and Ukraine).
I am heavily conflicted between Federico Chiesa, Lorenzo Insigne and Raheem Sterling. Chiesa is one of my favorite players in the past three years. If you didn’t watch him at Fiorentina before his loan move to Juventus, then you probably don’t understand his potential. After the lineups are announced, it will be a coin toss between my head and heart. Currently sitting at a ranking of 188K and in need of a differential to advance, I may go with Chiesa if he is cleared to play after being forced off in the win over Spain.
If Chiesa doesn’t start, my second choice is Insigne. The Napoli winger has an amazing eye for goal and I believe Pickford is no match for his curling shots from the edge of the box. And if Ciro Immobile decides to wake up, then this will result in more returns for Insigne. Finally, if I don’t like the look of Italy’s confirmed lineup, then my escape hatch is Raheem Sterling.
Regardless of whom you’re backing, the English duo of Kane and Sterling has really high ownership that will undoubtedly be heavily captained too. So, any Italian will be quite a differential in itself. Another reason I’m not picking Kane is that, except for Spain’s tactical masterclass, pretty much no forward has been able to beat the defensive triangle of Jorginho, Chiellini, and Bonucci.
On paper, a gritty 0-0 tie seems to be a very possible prospect, but Euro 2020 has regularly gone off script, shattering the total goals-scored record at 140. There have been no 0-0 ties in the knockouts yet, and Italy has not yet failed to find the net. Therefore my armband is on the ex-Fiorentina phenom Federico Chiesa pending confirmed starters (he has a knock). He is just as dynamic as Sterling, and the man can actually finish his chances... and half-chances. He’s pretty much the polar opposite of Sterling in terms of xG.
Finally, I have to admit that captaining a defender could be a great differential play. But even a Harry Maguire hattrick wouldn’t take me into the top 10, so I’d rather enjoy the last of this fabulous tournament instead of letting the loss of a clean sheet spoil the experience.
Perhaps we are about to witness one of the great finals, full of goals and glorious moments of attacking football. But I don’t think so. If there is no early goal, then I’m going to suggest that we have two teams who will prioritize not losing the final over winning it. If that is correct, then I will go against the main attacking options and choose instead a player who comes off the bench to make an impact. Jack Grealish has been England’s fan-favorite all competition but has been held back by his manager. I will bet on a second-half scoreline of 0-0, with young Jack coming on to provide a moment of magic against tired Italian legs.
What are you looking for in a captain for a final between two stubborn defenses? Can you predict who will score what may be the only goal in the game? (If it’s a PK, then that prediction does become simpler.) Do you have any questions before making your choice? Please take our poll and then tell us whom you’ll captain in the comments below.
My captain for the Euro 2020 final will be:
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