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azzurri threat Phil Thompson warns England their Italian rivals will indulge in the 'dark arts'

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Roberto Mancini put the Italy squad through their final preparations at Tottenham Hotspur’s training ground on Saturday (Nick Potts/PA)

Roberto Mancini put the Italy squad through their final preparations at Tottenham Hotspur’s training ground on Saturday (Nick Potts/PA)

Roberto Mancini put the Italy squad through their final preparations at Tottenham Hotspur’s training ground on Saturday (Nick Potts/PA)

Phil Thompson believes Italy will be quick to use some of the game's 'dark arts' in a bid to get over the winning line in tonight's Euro 2020 final against England.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday World in association with Paddy Power, former England and Liverpool captain Thompson has warned that Roberto Mancini's side will stop at nothing to get their hands on the trophy up for grabs at Wembley.

"Italy have always been a team that knows how to make best use of the dark arts of the game," Thompson told us.

"Even in my time playing against Italian sides, they can get a kick on the knee and they roll around holding their face to try and break a game up, especially when they are in front.

"They are good at it and they are not embarrassed to do it so I'm sure they will do it again in this final."

Thompson has suggested Italy's defensive stalwarts Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will present a formidable barrier for Harry Kane and his England team to get around, as he suggested the Azzurri have what it takes to be crowned as European kings.

"When this tournament started, I think Italy were about fifth or sixth favourites with the bookies, yet they showed what they were all about in the group stages and have kicked on from there," he continued.

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Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini has been talking up England’s strength in depth (Nick Potts/PA)

Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini has been talking up England’s strength in depth (Nick Potts/PA)

Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini has been talking up England’s strength in depth (Nick Potts/PA)

"There is so much to admire about them, starting with Bonucci and Chiellini at the back, who are tough defenders and give nothing away.

"You could go through the spine of the team with Jorginho and Marco Verratti, then up front you have Federico Chiesa, Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile and they have really come to the fore.

"They have great pace up front and England are going to have to be careful of the counter-attack, but I look at this England side and they have a real chance to win this final.

"I went for England to get to at least the semi-final before this tournament started. Denmark were my dark horses and they ended up doing very well, but I always felt England had the quality to go far in Euro 2020.

"I feel like this England team are warming up for the 2022 World Cup and by then, I feel they will be at their very best, but they could go better than I imagined and win Euro 2020 now."

Thompson believes Gareth Southgate's influence on the England set-up has made him their star man in this tournament, with England's run to the final already generating €100k for Irish grassroots football after Paddy Power vowed to donate €10k for every goal scored by the home nation.

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"Southgate is ready-made for international management," added Thompson. "This job is all about keeping a group of multi-millionaire superstars together and build a good community spirit in the dressing room. That is the thing he has done.

"He never gets flustered. Straight after that Germany game when everyone was going mad, he was quick to say calm down and think of the next game.

"It's a temperament you want from a manager. He was like that as a player and he is a very humble man.

"It's happened several times in this tournament that I've look at the team he has picked and just thought he had it wrong, but it has come up trumps every time."

Numerous needy clubs across Ireland have already received donations from Paddy Power's #SaveOurGame fund, with each goal England score tonight adding another €10k to the pot.

Get in touch if your club needs a cash injection from the #SaveOurGame fund at saveourgame@paddypower.com.

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