Italy vs. England result | highlights & analysis as Raspadori strike condemns Three Lions to UEFA Nations League relegation
England manager Gareth Southgate promised to shield his players from “a lot of noise” and claimed their performance had been “on the right road” after the Three Lions’ relegation from UEFA Nations League League A.
Booing could be heard as Southgate congratulated the away supporters after Giacomo Raspadori’s merciless late goal secured Italy victory at the San Siro and relegated England to bottom place in Group 3 as their poor run continued.
“They did a lot of things right, and we’ve got to keep progressing,” Southgate said, after witnessing his team extend their goalless streak from open play to seven and a half hours as part of a troubling slide in form ahead of the World Cup in November. “The squad should not be under any duress. The most important result of tonight is that the whole attention must now be on the World Cup. I understand how the supporters feel about the outcome.”
— Channel 4 Sport (@C4Sport) September 23, 2022
Raspadori cut inside and took advantage of generous defending from Kyle Walker to curl a brilliant finish past Nick Pope and into the far corner of the net as Italy halted a record of four consecutive draws against England after 90 minutes.
After England went down, Harry Kane came closest for the visitors, seeing Donnarumma deny him twice in short succession, although Italy should have scored a second late on when Pope blocked Manolo Gabbiadini with his feet and Federico Dimarco fired against a post.
England will join League B regardless of their performance against Germany at home on Monday. Italy’s last matchday opponent will be Hungary, which defeated Die Mannschaft and now leads the table by two points.
England Relegated to League B
England’s five-game losing streak is their longest since Roy Hodgson’s dismal tenure eight years ago.
Southgate claimed England had enough “decisive moments” to win the game, but the numbers are grim everywhere he looks as a Nations League campaign that has yielded one goal in five games comes to a close – and it may not be a kind one at home to a Germany side seeking revenge for their defeat at Wembley at Euro 2020.
That goalless streak in open play is their longest in 22 years, and the displeasure voiced from the remarkably sizable number of England fans in the away end will ring louder in London unless England makes a dramatic improvement.
Bukayo Saka’s starting place at left wing-back had been the primary mystery in Southgate’s decision, coupled with his persistence with Harry Maguire, discarded by Manchester United but apparently untouchable for his nation.
The big concern surrounding Saka was whether the daring wideman could show enough defensive discipline to keep Italy at bay, and the answer was unconvincing during an opening 15 minutes in which the hosts took advantage of the abundant space on their right.
England have now failed to score from open play in any of their last five matches.
The Three Lions' first World Cup match is just 59 days away.
The towering striker sent a shot from distance comfortably wide, then saw his header clawed away by Nick Pope after getting the better of Maguire following a cross by Inter wideman Federico Dimarco, who had advanced past Reece James to reach the byline on the right.
Southgate had spoken highly of Ben Chilwell immediately before the match but claimed the Chelsea full-back’s long-term lack of action through injury problems had kept him out of starting contention.
Maguire did little to silence his critics with his display and only Walker’s acrobatic intervention stopped Italy from profiting after the centre-back clumsily conceded a free-kick near the England penalty area during the second half.
Italy had failed to find the net in four of their previous eight games, so it was little surprise to see a scarcity of meaningful shots on target before Raspadori found his range with a precise and powerful finish.
Declan Rice came closest to equalising during the closing stages and the midfielder made the case for England fans to find hope despite their team’s dreadful sequence of results.
— Italy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@Azzurri_En) September 23, 2022
The USA, Wales and Iran – England’s opponents in a tricky-looking group in Qatar – will have seen plenty of potential weaknesses across the course of their latest loss, and Rice admitted that Southgate’s side had let their standards slip in the Nations League.
The former finalists have failed to score more than once in nine of their last 10 matches in the competition outside of England and will not be seeded for Euro 2024 qualifying as a result of their relegation.
“It was a much better performance than in the summer,” added Rice, although a worse showing would have been some achievement, given that England were thrashed 4-0 at home to Hungary when they last played.
Italy legend Alessandro del Piero was among those applauding the inclusion of Jude Bellingham in the starting lineup. The 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder showed flashes of inspiration and looked the most likely to score alongside Kane, with Southgate singling him out for praise afterwards.
“It’s not that we’re not creating opportunities,” Rice remarked, making a questionable point after a match that went 30 minutes without a significant shooting from either side.
“We’re approaching the penalty area. It’s objectives for enjoyment, as I view it in training. We’re going to be OK, believe me.”
Southgate’s popularity is fading. Prior to this defeat, the coach stated that England knew where they went wrong during the summer and began each set of matches with a clean slate.
The build-up to the tournament has been awful for a coach who was immensely liked by supporters at the start of the year, barring a deliberate plot to decrease expectations.