Italy v England: Euro 2020 finalists come together to regain lost momentum

England lost to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley
Date: Friday, September 23 Hour: 19:45 BST Place: San Siro, Milan Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live, the BBC Sport website and app

England meet Italy here in Milan 439 days later Euro 2020 final At Wembley it brought disappointment on the pitch, along with bitterness and recriminations, and both trying to regain their lost momentum.

The bare facts suggest that England suffered the familiar fate of defeat on penalties after a 1-1 draw, adding to the disappointment of a loss on home soil and a 55-year wait to reach a major final.

What should have been a celebration was marred by chaotic scenes caused by widespread hooliganism, a lack of crowd control as England’s ticket-free fans climbed over barriers, and the racist abuse suffered by Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. after the penalty shootout failed.

England and Italy meet again in one of world football’s most iconic arenas, the San Siro, with that European final seemingly an age away and both countries looking to erase memories of poor results in recent matches.

Gareth Southgate’s England can at least use these two Nations League games against Italy and Germany to avoid the embarrassment of relegation from their group, but also as observers of the upcoming World Cup in Qatar in November.

In contrast, Italy’s woes after their deserved night of glory at Wembley have been so swift and painful that they will be watching the game’s greatest spectacle from afar after missing out on a World Cup qualifier against North Macedonia in Palermo.

Italy with the Euro 2020 trophy
Italy have had disappointing results since winning Euro 2020

Italy coach Roberto Mancini had enough credit in the bank to survive that humiliation by winning the Euros, but all eyes will be on him after their 5-2 defeat in Germany in the last game, the first time anyone had scored as many goals. Azzurri since 1957.

England also have to arrest a four-game winless slide, their worst run since 2014, when they went five games without a win under manager Roy Hodgson.

They have played 13 games, won seven, drawn four and lost two since Italy’s defeat at Wembley.

Certainly, the optimism and national fervor that helped Southgate and England travel to the finals of Euro 2020 has diluted over time, and there is a growing sense that winning a major tournament on home soil must be seen as a huge missed opportunity. .

Have England really improved since losing to Italy? They have not presented a credible case to suggest that they have.

Southgate first felt the wrath of the fans after the last game, a 4-0 loss to Hungary at Molineux in June, when a vitriol-laden atmosphere erupted that had previously flowed offstage about his conservative views. noisily into the public domain.

Chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” echoed around Molineux after short memories proved remarkable since Southgate guided England to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia 2018, before the Euro 2020 finals. know what he’s doing England captain Harry Kane expressed his disappointment after being asked about the manager’s position.

Southgate is as confident as England manager. The Football Association admire his character, record and everything he brings to the organisation. If he leaves, it will be at the time of his choice, barring something exceptional, because he has signed a contract until December 2024.

After the defeat in Hungary cut across a more weary world than usual with almost everyone involved in those Nations League games suffering from football fatigue, Southgate caused a stir when he said at one point: “I’m not going to get over myself.” welcome”.

There is no doubt, however, that Southgate needs performances and results in these next two Nations League games, circumstances will do little to dispel the belief that England squandered a great chance at Wembley on that wet night in July last year. fall again soon.

The World Cup, along with his legacy, will do much to shape how his time as England manager is viewed. Expectations that had fallen after disastrous efforts in major tournaments under Fabio Capello and Hodgson have been boosted by Southgate’s own achievements.

Southgate, it should not be forgotten, also inherited an England team in disarray after Sam Allardyce’s reign of poor play. That store of goodwill can dry up quickly, even for managers with a long list of honours, so these two Nations League games will be important in building the pre-World Cup atmosphere.

The immediate concern for Southgate is to finalize his squad to take to Qatar, with just these two games to prove his England are hardly all men before he completes the list of hopefuls and can finally claim the top prize that has eluded the men’s team. 1966

Brentford striker Ivan Toney was his standout selection and joins Tammy Abraham in the race to replace captain Kane, while Jude Bellingham’s excellent Champions League performance against Manchester City last week for Borussia Dortmund increased his clamor for a place in the starting line-up. .

The absence of first-choice goalkeeper Jordan Pickford through injury means Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale, who lost 4-0 to Hungary, will look to boost Newcastle United’s summer signings Nick Pope and Dean Henderson, on loan from Manchester United at Nottingham Forest. they claim to be next in line.

The involvement of Manchester United captain Harry Maguire will also come under scrutiny after manager Erik ten Hag dropped him after a poor start to the season, a player Southgate has helped to ensure remains in the squad.

Italy present a formidable obstacle, especially at home, and it will be a real boost if England come away from the San Siro with a good result, a win if possible, to remove the cobwebs at Molineux.