International Friendly: England vs Italy – Line ups, Preview and Prediction
An England team growing in confidence after beating Holland take on an Italy side hurting after failing to qualify for the World Cup and a poor outing against Argentina
20:00 GMT, Tuesday 27th March, Wembley Stadium (London, England)
It’s rare for England to start as outright favourites against Italy, especially as their team is hardly one of world-beaters, but that just stresses the dire situation Italy find themselves in. The tragically sad passing of Italian defender Davide Astori two weeks ago though still understandably lingers on the minds of all the players, and tributes will be paid to him pre-match.
England come into the match high on confidence after an encouraging performance against the Netherlands which gave them much cause for optimism, as the young core of Rashford, Lingard and Sterling all shone out against the Dutch. Gareth Southgate’s imprint on the side is showing and, alongside the results, the football is pleasing to the eye. Another good outing in midweek should further lift the nation’s spirits heading into Russia, especially as their participation in the tournament is in doubt due to the political issues between themselves and the hosts.
It hurts to see this Italy side struggling, and the World Cup will miss the style and shocks they usually bring to major tournaments. After losing to relative minnows Sweden in the World Cup playoff, the team have undergone huge changes, managerial flop Gian Piero Ventura was sacked and many new players have been called up into the squad for the first time. But as their performance on Friday night against Argentina showed, there is still a lot of work to do.
The glamour and glitz of Wembley and the high standing of the two teams mean that this match should hopefully provide many talking points, but as with any Italian side, their defence is strong so goals may be a rarity. Looking at the previous battles between these two sides though, from the penalty shootout in Euro 2012 to Italy’s victory over England in Italia ’90 to claim 3rd spot, this match is not one to be missed.
Last Time Out
Netherlands 0-1 England (International Friendly)
An impressive performance from Southgate’s team against the Netherlands and the slightly sarcastic calls that this side will bring the World Cup home have intensified, however, the positive showing can’t be underestimated. Jesse Lingard’s 58th-minute winner from a well-worked move was the least that England deserved from a performance in which they dominated possession.
Both Ronald Koeman and Virgil van Dijk’s first game as manager and captain respectively gave them much cause for concern, with lacklustre performances from Memphis Depay and Bas Dost upfront especially worrying, although take nothing away from this England side’s performance.
Italy 0-2 Argentina (International Friendly)
Italy failed to turn up, as did half the Etihad Stadium it seems, on Friday night against an Argentina side resting Lionel Messi, as their first match under interim care manager Luigi Di Biagio was a real letdown, and arguably their best performer had to be goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Without a World Cup to prepare for, this was a chance for Italy to blood some of their youngsters, but apart from 20-year-olds Federico Chiesa and Patrick Cutrone, Di Biagio’s line-up comprised the same veterans that oversaw the disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign, and their aging bodies perhaps showed as Ever Banega scored the opener in the 75th minute before West Ham striker Manuel Lanzini scored ten minutes later to add the final touches to an easy win.
England Lineup – prediction
Italy Lineup – prediction
Key Battle: Dele Alli (England) vs Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
Dele Alli will surely start for England having been a late substitution in the game against Holland, and after an iffy season so far and exiting Europe with his club side Tottenham to Italian side Juventus, he will want to prove a point. “The best young player in the world” according to his club boss Mauricio Pochettino, Alli will come up against former Juventus stalwart and now current Milan defender Bonucci, so the attacking midfielder will have his work cut out in creating goal scoring opportunities.
Major Talking Points
Is Henderson the right man to captain England heading into the World Cup?
After captaining his county for the fifth time under Southgate, Henderson seems to be growing into the role with the same level of assuredness as he has for his club side, Liverpool, yet the man himself has played down the importance of the role itself, claiming whoever is the captain, “responsibility is shared” equally throughout the team.
Kane’s absence from the squad hasn’t quite put to bed the captaincy questions heading into the World Cup, as Southgate is a huge fan of the Tottenham striker and has named him captain before, but Henderson as the current incumbent has the utmost respect of his teammates. He can also go under the radar in the tournaments unlike previous England captains such as Steven Gerrard and John Terry, whose superstar statuses seemed to distract them from the burden of the captaincy.
Can this Italy side reach the lofty heights they are famous and adored for?
This World Cup will mark 12 years since Italy won their fourth title in Germany, and their absence from the tournament for the first time since 1958 highlights the decline an ageing side has suffered. With members such as Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini, having both played in the World Cup win in 2006, retired and come back to play, it stresses the lack of talent coming throughout the national set-up.
A fiercely proud nation who have stagnated since an impressive showing under Antonio Conte’s team at Euro 2016, the Azzurri surely have to blood younger players, such as goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and Nicolo Barella, even if it means suffering more before success can be seen.
Prediction: England 2-0 Italy
Few goals should be expected in a game with two solid defences up against two front lines lacking any world-class quality. The return to the starting line-up of Vardy and Alii though should give England the extra edge, alongside the home advantage and a titan in Buffon wavering ever so slightly between the sticks.
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