|Date: friday september 23 Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT Venue: San Siro, Milan Cover: 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 despair to the pitch accompanied by bitterness and recriminations and both are now looking to regain lost momentum.
The bare facts indicate England suffered the familiar fate of penalty shootout defeat after a 1-1 draw, the disappointment heightened by the home defeat and after a 55-year wait to reach a major final.
It was a day when what should have been a celebratory occasion was marred by chaotic scenes caused by widespread hooliganism, a lack of crowd control as the barriers were stormed by ticketless England fans , then the racist abuse suffered by Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after missing penalties in the shootout.
England and Italy now find themselves in one of the most iconic arenas in world football, the San Siro, with that Euro final seeming a long way off and both countries hoping to banish memories of poor results in their last 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 sights for the next World Cup in Qatar in November.
By contrast, Italy’s downfall after their deserved night of glory at Wembley was so quick and painful that it will see them stare the game’s biggest showpiece from afar after losing a World Cup play-off to minnows from North Macedonia to Palermo.
Italy manager Roberto Mancini had enough credit in the bank with the Euros win to survive that humiliation, but all eyes will be on his side after losing 5-2 to Germany in their last game, the first time that someone had scored so many goals after the Azzuri since 1957.
England must also halt a four-game losing streak, their worst streak since 2014, when they went five games without a win under manager Roy Hodgson.
They have played 13 games, winning seven, drawing four and losing two since losing to Italy at Wembley.
There is no doubt that the optimism and national fervor that accompanied Southgate and England on their journey to the Euro 2020 final has been diluted over time, with a growing sense that not winning a major tournament on home soil must now be seen as a huge missed opportunity. .
Have England really improved since losing to Italy? They haven’t exactly presented a compelling case to suggest they did.
Southgate, for the first time, felt the full anger of the fans after their last game, the 4-0 defeat to Hungary at Molineux in June, the atmosphere laced with vitriol as what had previously been chased offstage about of his perceived conservative approach erupted. loudly in the public domain.
Chants of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ echoed around Molineux, notoriously short memories in evidence once again after Southgate guided England to the World Cup semi-final in Russia in 2018 before the Euro 2020 final, thus proving that he does. know what he is doing. England captain Harry Kane expressed his disappointment after being asked about the manager’s position.
Southgate is as safe as England manager can be. The Football Association admires his character, his record and all he brings to the organisation. If he leaves, it will be at the time of his choice, barring an extraordinary event, after having signed a contract leading him until December 2024.
He cut a more tired figure from the world than usual after the defeat to Hungary, when almost everyone involved in those Nations League games seemed to be suffering from football fatigue, Southgate even caused a stir when he said at one point, “I won’t stay longer than my host.”
There is no doubt, however, that Southgate needs performances and results in these next two Nations League games to dispel the idea that England may have squandered their great chance at Wembley in this wet night of chaos in July last year, that circumstances are unlikely to turn out so favorably for them anytime soon.
The World Cup will do a lot to shape how his time as England manager will be viewed along with his legacy. Expectations that had dipped after dismal efforts at majors under Fabio Capello and Hodgson have been lifted by what Southgate himself has achieved.
Southgate, it should not be forgotten, also inherited an England side in disarray after Sam Allardyce’s ill-fated one-game reign. That reservoir of goodwill can run out quickly, even for managers with a long list of honours, so these two Nations League matches will be important in shaping the mood ahead of the World Cup.
An immediate concern for Southgate is finalizing his squad to take to Qatar, with just those two games before he puts together the list of those he hopes will prove his England aren’t nearly men and can finally claim the major prize that has eluded the men’s team since 1966.
Brentford striker Ivan Toney was his standout selection and he joins Tammy Abraham in the battle to be captain Kane’s understudy, while Jude Bellingham’s brilliant Champions League performance for Borussia Dortmund against Manchester City last week only increased the clamor for a spot in the starting lineup. .
The absence of first-choice goalkeeper Jordan Pickford through injury means Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale, in goal in the 4-0 defeat to Hungary, Newcastle United summer signings Nick Pope and Dean Henderson, on loan to Nottingham Forest from Manchester United, will want to push their claims to be next in line.
The involvement of Manchester United captain Harry Maguire will also come under scrutiny after he was let go by manager Erik ten Hag after a poor start to the season, Southgate’s loyalty to a player who served well by making sure he was on the team.
Italy present a formidable barrier, especially at home, and it will be a real boost of confidence if England can come away from the San Siro with a satisfactory result, preferably a win, to blast the cobwebs of Molineux.
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