The plotting and the messages will have started long ago. Roberto Mancini knows how to get into your head so that when a big day comes, you are ready to run through a brick wall.
Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci may be the generals who have led Italy into battle during this European Championship but one man — and one man alone — will be responsible for making sure the war is won.
Mancini has a way of inspiring you, of making you feel everything will be fine.
Roberto Mancini inspires you as a player - his pure passion makes you want to fight for himInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
He is the man driving Italy's war for Euro 2020 and he'll be doing his all to ensure it is won
This is what Gareth Southgate and England’s players need to understand. I’m certain, having seen Mancini at work at Manchester City, that the tone of his pre-match speech will be the same: he will tell Italy’s squad they are better than England in every department, whether he believes it or not.
He will then move on to other key points: go out and keep the crowd quiet; frustrate them into silence and then play the football you know. More than anything, he will be telling them in the dressing room to forget about nerves, to go and enjoy the occasion.
‘These games are the reason you become a footballer — this is what you play for,’ I can remember him telling us before the FA Cup final against Stoke in 2011 and on the final day of the season, the following year when we overcame QPR to become champions.
When Mancini was my Man City boss, he made us want to run through walls and assured us that everything would be fine on the day
His passionate speeches were key to helping City win the Premier League and FA Cup
The passion runs through him to such an extent that you don’t want to let him down. He gets so emotional on the touchline that you feel obligated to go the extra yard for him; Mancini has got presence and when he speaks, you become a believer.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
I know Italy’s squad believe in him because I watched the speeches he gave before extra time against Austria in the last 16 and against Spain in that superb semi-final, and the roar from the group as Mancini finished talking showed what impact he had.
It’s been wonderful to watch people recognise how good Mancini is throughout this tournament (I get accused of being biased when I relay my experiences) but, from an Englishman’s point of view, I’m now anxious as Italy present a danger to our hopes of success like no other.
It feels surreal to be talking about England playing in a major final. I was too young to get involved in the heartbreak of the 1990 World Cup and my memories of Euro 96 are hazy, as I was only eight, but the feelings that swept through me after the final whistle on Wednesday are impossible to describe.
When the Italian speaks, you instantly become a believer - he'll make his team convinced they can beat England in Sunday's final
What was wonderful, though, was seeing the faith I had in this group proving not to be misplaced. I expected us to beat Ukraine last Saturday and I expected us to take care of Denmark and that is what we did. I do not for one moment think that I was the only person who felt that way.
But isn’t it glorious that these players, heroes each and every one of them, are delivering?
To put it another way, I played for England during an era when, for all the talents we had, there was suspicion about us in big games and an expectation we would fall flat on our faces when it mattered.
If you want evidence, I’ll