With 11 host cities in this unique Euro 2020 tournament, the road to the final has been a long and winding traipse across every corner of the continent.

So perhaps it is no surprise to see two of the host nations making it to the decider, as England take on Italy at Wembley Stadium to decide this Covid-delayed competition.

England have enjoyed the luxury of playing all but one of their games at their home stadium, with just a short hop to Rome for their easiest game of the tournament, where they demolished Ukraine 4-0 without really moving out of third gear.

Italy, likewise, were able to enjoy home comforts throughout the group stages, while other nations were sent on a wild goose chase around Europe, as the Azzurri beat Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in Rome without conceding a goal.

Roberto Mancini's side then had to travel to London, on to Munich and then back to the English capital for the semi-final victory over Spain, and now on to the decider with Gareth Southgate’s side.

When the group stages were completed, England and Italy, of course, found themselves on either side of the draw, and it became evident immediately that it was Southgate’s side who were dealt a better hand with the main favourites, France, Spain and Belgium, all in with the Azzurri.

Yet on paper, it was the Italians who looked to have the easier of the first knockout games as they faced Austria, while England met old foes Germany.

Italy stumbled through against a tenacious Austria team who took the game to extra-time, while England got the better of an evenly-matched contest against a Germany side who are perhaps on their way down rather than one that is improving.

But from there, the tide would turn as England’s route to the final looked all-but confirmed with Ukraine, followed by the winners of Denmark and the Czech Republic, while Italy would have to get past the world-ranked number one side, Belgium, before even contemplating taking on the Spanish or the conquerors of France, Switzerland.

As it transpired, both sides were taken to extra-time to finally guarantee their spot in the final, but again, it was the Italians who had to work a lot harder to dig deep against the stylish Spanish, while Denmark were essentially on the ropes for the second 60 of the 120 minutes and it was a case of when, rather than if, the knockout blow would arrive.

And while they say that the journey can often be better than the destination, both teams will now draw a line under what has gone before to focus on a one-off encounter for European glory.

While England hold home advantage, the Italians get the benefit of the extra day off, having played on Tuesday night, but whether either factor plays a role remains to be seen.

The raucous English support will certainly offer great motivation for the home team in the opening exchanges, however, the sense of occasion, combined with the 55-year wait for such a scenario will bring its own sort of pressure – it is no wonder that England looked so comfortable away from home.

Italy were severely tested against Spain in what was a draining experience against the best team at holding possession, and Mancini’s side had to show great discipline maintaining shape and keeping their concentration throughout.

So while the semi-final may have been more mentally fatiguing, the English experience will be one that suits the Azzurri shape and style, and they will be allowed to play a more natural game.

Italy have played in seven major finals since England’s last outing in 1966, and have won the World Cup twice and the European Championships once since Jules Rimet gleamed at Wembley.

Having watched both teams play six times over the past four weeks, there is very little that either side can do to throw a real surprise for the final, and we can expect more of the same from both Italy and England.

Italy would have had the luxury of watching England take on Denmark, knowing that they were playing the winners in the final, and they will certainly be encouraged with what they were watching.

Southgate’s side continue to err on the side of caution, starting the semi-final with eight players who can be considered more defence-minded that forward thinking.

Mason Mount is the most natural attacker of the midfield unit, but really England’s outlet was to look for the mesmeric Raheem Sterling to open up Denmark, while maintaining a proven goal-getter up top in Harry Kane.

Italy, on the other hand, have been somewhat of a revelation going forward, playing with a front three with licence to roam, while also getting great support from the midfield unit in behind and the full-backs who are free to push forward.

Playing without a classic number nine, this Italian attacking set-up is causing real issues against top teams and will give the England backline the toughest test that it has received so far.

Italy’s performance against Belgium, most notably in the first half, was this team at their best and should they take that form into the England game, they will be very confident of lifting the trophy.

And in that game, they were equally impressive in defence, keeping the ever-attacking Belgians very quiet for most of the contest, and defended their lead until the final whistle.

England can justify everything they have done so far by the results that they have achieved with the manager's tactics and point to the five clean sheets that took them to the semi-finals, while the only goal that they conceded thus far came from a set-piece.

Southgate’s side built their World Cup semi-final run on these strengths combined with their dominance in attacking set-pieces, and they will look to the same combination in the Wembley final.

Harry Maguire, John Stones and Harry Kane are a real threat from either corners or free-kicks, while the quality of delivery has even seen players like Jordan Henderson get on the scoresheet.

England’s ability to open up quality sides with their current starting XI is still very debatable, however, and Kane’s through ball for Bukayo Saka in the semis that led to the equaliser is more the exception than the norm.

They have looked most potent attacking down the left side of the pitch when players like Jack Grealish have been introduced, and it was this approach that led to the two goals against Germany with Luke Shaw, Grealish and Sterling looking a very formidable combination in such situations, especially with Kane lurking in the box.

Grealish (below) received the dreaded curly finger against Denmark, having only come on as a sub, and while Southgate had his reasons defending a lead in extra-time, the optics of the situation were not great.

For England, there has been little creative play generated by midfielders like Declan Rice or Kalvin Philips, who has yet to show why he is referred to as the 'Yorkshire Pirlo'.

Without doubt, Sterling is the magic man for this English side and while he has already scored three goals and conjured up a vital penalty, there is little else coming from the rest of the starting XI aside from the odd foray forward from Shaw.

Kane’s goalscoring threat and Sterling’s ability to run at and take on players really does look to be England’s best hope of scoring from open play.

Italy will bring attacking quality down either flank and through the middle with Jorginho conducting the orchestra, while Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella will complement the dynamic trio of Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa, who has really impressed for the Italians.

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And while the two teams have both reached the final on merit, there are concerns in both camps ahead of this winner-takes-all encounter.

Italy have lost their most exciting player through injury, Leonardo Spinazzola, and while Emerson can replicate his attacking input to a certain degree, his defensive attributes do not compare, and it may be one area that England will target, having normally played more down the left flank.

For England, despite the fact that they have proved stingy in defence, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford looked very shaky in goal against Denmark with his distribution and decision-making.

England have nothing on the bench to really threaten the Everton man’s place in the team, but the defensive line ahead of Pickford will not have the same confidence in what is behind them and it may lead to some moments of indecision throughout the Italian test.

As a result of the likely defensive English tactics, Italy will look to take the game to their hosts in the first half and aim to get their noses in front to force England to play a more attacking game.

And should that be the case, the 120 minutes of defensive grit garnered from the Spanish game will give Mancini’s side the confidence to nullify any English threat.

England’s attacking approach, even at its most potent, will suit the Italian style as they revert back to what they are best at - the battle between Kane and Italian defensive stalwarts Leonardo Bonnucci and Giorgio Chiellini will be intriguing - and it might be what brings them all the way to hoisting the trophy.

Southgate has the best squad in the tournament and has the quality of player that is capable of winning the trophy playing fast-paced, possession-based, attacking football, which really augurs well for future tournaments.

However, it just seems that the manager - who is set to leave the likes of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Jude Bellingham on the bench - is not quite confident enough to select that highly entertaining formula.

How the sides are likely to line out at Wembley

Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne?

England: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Phillips; Saka, Mount, Sterling; Kane

Follow the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England this Sunday via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, or watch live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player from 7pm.