England’s bid to gain a measure of revenge for their Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy fell flat as the Three Lions were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw by an experimental Azzurri outfit at Molineux on Saturday.
Exactly 11 months on from Italy beating England on penalties at Wembley, Gareth Southgate’s men failed to kick-start their Nations League campaign against a side who have not qualified for Qatar 2022 and were battered by Argentina in the Finalissima.
England had chances but were arguably second-best in the first half, as they were cheered on by a massively reduced crowd made up mostly by children as a consequence of the crowd trouble at last July’s final.
The hosts had the better of the second period but nonetheless slumped to three successive games without a win for only the second time under Southgate.
— England (@England) June 11, 2022
A gripping start saw Davide Frattesi and Tammy Abraham miss presentable close-range chances, before Gianluigi Donnarumma tipped a Mason Mount effort onto the crossbar all inside the first 10 minutes.
The flurry was followed by something of a lull, but Italy threatened again just before the half-hour mark as Aaron Ramsdale produced a fine stop to thwart Sandro Tonali from point-blank range.
Italy finished the half dangerously, too. Gianluca Scamacca smashed over from eight yards and Matteo Pessina saw his drive turned over.
England should have made it 1-0 early in the second half, but Raheem Sterling failed to convert from Reece James’ delivery across goal.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo then made a mess of Lorenzo Pellegrini’s lofted pass into the box, neither squaring to the unmarked Scamacca nor getting a shot away, and the game ultimately petered out to a goalless draw.
What does it mean? Rock-bottom England flatter to deceive again
This was probably the most threatening England have looked during these three Nations League matches, but they were also second-best for significant periods against an Italy side who are undergoing something of a rebuild.
As such, they reach the halfway point of the group campaign rooted to the bottom of the table with just two points and one goal – and that was a penalty.
Granted, Southgate did make changes to his team, but this was not an XI filled with debutants and youngsters. They simply fell short of expectations, which is not something one would want to make a habit of five months out from a World Cup.
Grealish tries to provide the spark
Rewarded with a start after a bright cameo against Germany, Jack Grealish was one of England’s livelier players in attack. His four key passes were twice that of anyone else on the pitch, and in general his use of the ball around the box was solid if not decisive.
Abraham unable to take his chance
Up against some familiar Serie A foes, Abraham would have been eager to impress. While he was not exactly poor, he only attempted two shots – one a disappointing close-range miss early on – and neither hit the target.
England are back in Wolverhampton on Tuesday for the visit of Hungary. Italy face Germany in Monchengladbach at the same time.