Italy let an early lead slip through their fingers as England pulled off a convincing comeback to run out 3-1 victors in a mouth-watering Euro 2024 qualifier. A disastrous night at Wembley Stadium cast a cloud of uncertainty on the Italians’ hopes of getting a chance to defend their continental crown.
Despite going down 2-1 in the reverse fixture in March, Italy headed into proceedings with plenty of optimism, knowing their last loss on English soil dates back to 1977. Since that defeat, Gli Azzurri have gone unbeaten in six consecutive meetings with England away from home, most recently sharing the spoils in a goalless draw in last summer’s UEFA Nations League.
Fresh off a 4-0 humbling of Group C minnows Malta, Italy took the Wembley pitch seeking three points that would bring them a step closer to making amends for missing out on last winter’s World Cup in Qatar. Manager Luciano Spalletti made as many as eight changes to the starting lineup that faced Malta a few days ago.
In addition to changing the entire defensive four, he made two corrections in the engine room and two more upfront. Atalanta striker Gianluca Scamacca, who took Giacomo Raspadori’s place in the starting XI, broke the deadlock in London.
After a quick passing exchange around England’s penalty area, Giovanni Di Lorenzo picked out the 24-year-old inside the six-yard box. Scamacca finished with aplomb to put Italy ahead only 15 minutes into the game. Unfortunately, less than 15 minutes after providing an assist, Di Lorenzo made a sloppy mistake, sending Harry Kane to the spot.
Referee Clement Turpin had no doubt, awarding a penalty to England after the Napoli captain made a reckless tackle on Jude Bellingham. The Real Madrid rising star beat him to the ball, earning the Three Lions a penalty. There was never a shred of doubt as Kane gave Gianluigi Donnarumma any chance, leveling the score in the 32nd minute.
Both sides had one promising chance in the remainder of the first half. Kane found Marcus Rashford inside the box, but Donnarumma pulled off a brilliant save to deny the Manchester United ace from point-blank. Italy almost punished Rashford’s miss on the stroke of halftime. Tottenham wingback Destiny Udogie tested Jordan Pickford from close range, but the Everton goalkeeper thwarted him with a fine save.
Following a decent first-half performance, Italy fell apart beyond halftime. England assumed control of the tempo, and it was only a matter of time before Spalletti’s side would collapse. It did happen in the 57th minute as Bellingham initiated a lightning-fast counter-attack, dispatching Rashford into space, with the Man Utd forward finding the far bottom corner with surgical precision.
Spalletti tried to get Italy back on track with a triple substitution, but there wasn’t a way back. The Euro 2020 winners looked up the creek without a paddle, failing to threaten England’s goal while giving the hosts acres of space when trying to venture forward in numbers. One such scenario took place in the 77th minute.
Kane made second-half substitute Alessandro Bastoni and Atalanta youngster Giorgio Scalvini look like second-tier defenders. The new Bayern Munich striker picked up the ball at the halfway point and breezed past two of his markers before beating Donnarumma with a clinical finish to put the game beyond Italy’s reach.
With Ukraine beating Malta 3-1 in the other Group C fixture, Italy must win both remaining qualifiers against North Macedonia and the Ukrainians to avoid missing out on another major tournament.
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