Sun. Sep 25th, 2022
SO have you got World Cup fever yet? 

Are you hanging up your wallchart, buying England’s hideous new shirt, and belting out World In Motion and This Time (We’ll Get It Right)? 

England are out of Nations League A after a 1-0 defeat to Italy
The Three Lions face a horror Euro 2024 draw after their relegation

Nope? Thought not. 

Not after England were condemned to Nations League relegation, without a win – or a single open-play goal – in five matches and with just one more game to go before a corrupt and immoral tournament in Qatar.   

England’s millionaire footballers may have got themselves a hefty tax cut from the Chancellor yesterday but Gareth Southgate’s stock is dropping faster than sterling on the currency exchanges.

This Three Lions side lacked identity and was seriously short on entertainment value as they stank out the San Siro and were beaten by Giacomo Raspadori’s thumping second-half finish. 



Harry Kane left with blood pouring from mouth after sickening collision


Fans all say same thing as singer for Italy vs England STRIPS off for anthem

The biggest roar of the night from the England fans came when a paper plane – national symbol of boredom – was sent onto the pitch from way up in the nosebleed seats at this vast old stadium. 

Southgate will recall similar scenes before the last World Cup in Russia – and that campaign went well enough. 

But on the basis of this Nations League campaign, nobody should be complacent about England even progressing from a World Cup group which features Iran, USA and Wales. 

This bloody great crumbling ruin of a stadium is condemned to the bulldozers but it still holds a great mystique. 

England were second-best all over the pitch on Friday night
England Player of the Year Bukayo Saka struggled to impress at the San Siro


England hadn’t played here since 1939 and they haven’t beaten the Azzurri on Italian soil since 1961. 

Southgate gave Eric Dier his first England cap for two years and employed Bukayo Saka in the problem left-wing-back position. 

The England manager’s favoured back five was rolled out – at least until Italy scored – and it is likely to be his Plan A in Qatar.  

When Southgate spoke on the eve of this match of having  ‘compromised’ in his decision-making during a miserable stretch of games in June, he was probably referring to the fact that he has frequently used a crowd-pleasing flat back four – which has rarely produced their better performances. 

The Italians – champions of Europe but absent from Qatar after a shocking play-off defeat by North Macedonia – had West Ham’s Gianluca Scamacca leading the line.  

Italy broke the deadlock in the 68th minute through Giacomo Raspadori
The Napoli striker bagged a brilliant goal to undo England’s defence

After a stripping opera singer – who tore off her cloak between God Save The King and the Italian anthem – the hosts made a rapid start.  

England, in that God-awful kit, were sluggish – Maguire making an early error and then Federico Dimarco crossing to the far post where Scamacca skyscraping header was clawed away by Nick Pope, deputising for the injured Jordan Pickford. 

It was scratchy stuff from England. They gave away far too many free-kicks in their own half – a trait which Southgate will be keen for them to ditch at the tournament.

There were moments when the Three Lions threatened on the break, especially when Saka – strangely voted as England’s Player of the Year by supporters – led a charge but Kane boomed his shot way over. 

And by half-time, the match appeared to be dying a death. It was as bad as the goalless draw between the same two sides at Molineux in June – and those of us who lived through that one can assure you that that is saying something. 


The Lions were left battered and bruised in a rough game[/caption]


Italy made life difficult for even the most talented of England’s stars[/caption]

Dier looked solid in the centre of the back three, as he has done for Tottenham ever since Antonio Conte’s arrival, and there were moments of promise from Jude Bellingham, yet the Borussia Dortmund kid wasn’t seeing enough of the ball. 

But we were grasping at straws of positivity. As a spectacle, it was an abysmal 45 minutes.

The second period had a lively start – Dier making a fine saving tackle to deny Bryan Cristante a crack on goal, then a Raheem Sterling burst stopped by Leonardo Bonucci’s foul on the edge of the box. 

But Reece James, taking most of the set-pieces, blazed the free-kick well over. 

England’s set-pieces, such a strength at the last World Cup in Russia, have been largely poor for some time now. 

Southgate has three of the best dead-ball merchants in world football in James Ward-Prowse, Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold – perhaps he need to find a way of getting one of them into his team. 

Gareth Southgate did not receive a warm reception from his own fans at the final whistle
England are now on a run of five games without victory ahead of November’s World Cup

From a James corner, Kane suffered a horrible clash of heads with Rafael Toloi but after lengthy treatment, the England captain continued.   

But on 68 minutes, the Italians scored with a classy goal but one which will not have filled Kyle Walker with any great pride. 

A gorgeous ball over the top from Bonucci caught England’s defence dozing and Raspadori teased Walker this way and that before he thumped a belting finish into the bottom corner. 

Southgate sent on Grealish and Luke Shaw for Saka and Walker, moving back to a back four. 

And there was suddenly more spark about England – Kane forcing a double save from Gianluigi Donnarumma with two angled drives. 

But Pope had to be alert to deny Manolo Gabbiadini with his legs and then Dimarco drove against the inside of the post with Italy looking far more incisive than their visitors. 

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England were second-best, against a side who won’t even be in Qatar. 

Don’t expect to be throwing any beer around in celebration down at your local in November and December. 

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