England’s scoreless start to their Nations League campaign continued when an experimental team of Three Lions failed to beat European champions Italy in a goalless draw at Molineux.
This was a match played behind closed doors as punishment for the chaos that preceded the last meeting between the two, when Italy defeated England in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.
However, several thousand excited schoolchildren in attendance provided a lively backdrop to Gareth Southgate’s side in Wolverhampton and nearly got the goal they craved when Mason Mount crashed into the crossbar in the first half attempt.
Raheem Sterling, captain of the night with Harry Kane on the substitutes, also missed a glorious close opportunity from Reece James’ knocked-out pitch after halftime.
But the hosts also needed goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale on several alerts to prevent the Azzurri from inflicting another defeat on Southgate’s side, who remain bottom of Group A3 with two points after three games.
England too predictable for organized Italy
This was the third of four games in 11 days for England after a draw in Germany followed an opening defeat to Hungary, and saw boss Southgate make six changes from that result in Munich.
The full schedule comes after a long domestic season in which the players themselves had little time to recover after last summer’s postponed European Championship, when Southgate’s side finished second to a lavish Italy outfit.
Despite that, and after taking England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, Southgate continues to divide opinion – which English manager isn’t? – and perhaps the combination of tired legs and an unfamiliar starting squad caused their lack of cohesion in the attack.
The hosts were not adventurous enough, and too predictable, to harass a well-organized but barely vintage Italian side as much as they would have liked, with Roberto Mancini’s outfit also barely recognizable from their win at last summer’s European Championship.
That said, England will feel like they’ve had chances to win the match.
Tammy Abraham, who finished the season with 17 goals in Serie A, had a glorious opportunity when goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma messed up his pass, but Manuel Locatelli’s latest challenge knocked the attacker off his stride as he formed to shoot.
Mount then fired into the crossbar after being outplayed by Sterling, who in the second half could only help James’ tantalizing throw from the right over the top himself.
It was the result of a long, patient build-up, but all too often England were slow in transition and easy to defend.
On the other hand, Arsenal’s Ramsdale, taking the place of Jordan Pickford, didn’t hurt his future with the national team by making several smart stops after a flurry of quick Italian attacks in the first half.
It means England have not had a win over Italy since 2012, and have been in competitive competition since 1977.
Much has changed Italy remains undefeated
While Italy’s last encounter with England crowned Mancini’s team European champions, the Azzurri’s were eliminated from World Cup qualifiers in a shocking semi-final defeat to North Macedonia in March and will not be heading to Qatar later this year.
Their Nations League campaign started promisingly with a draw against Germany and a win over Hungary and they remain unbeaten after a well-deserved draw at Wolverhampton, as former Manchester City boss Mancini plans for their long-term future.
Only two of the players who started against England in the final at Wembley last summer started this, but the visitors still managed to create some decent openings, especially in the first half.
Davide Frattesi missed a huge opportunity to give them the lead in the opening moments as he pushed a low effort past the far post, while Ramsdale produced an excellent stop to keep Sandro Tonali out.
Ginaluca Scamacca also cut over from a dangerous position as Italy purposefully finished the opening 45 minutes, but were unable to build on that momentum after the break.
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- 5Tomoriis replaced byGuehiBee 88′minutes
- 8Ward-ProwseBooked at 81 minutes
- 4Riceis replaced byPhilipsBee 65′minutes
- 10Sterlingis replaced bysakaBee 79′minutes
- 11mountis replaced byBowenBee 65′minutes
- 7GrealishBooked at 29 minutes
- 9Abrahamis replaced bykaneBee 65′minutes
- 1G Donnarumma
- 2Di Lorenzo
- 3GattiBooked at 48 minutes
- 13Dimarcois replaced byFlorenciaBee 87′minutes
- 5locationBooked at 25 minutesis replaced byGnontoBee 64′minutes
- 8TonalBooked at 90 minutes
- 12Pessinais replaced byCristanteBee 88′minutes
- 9scamccais replaced byraspadoriBee 77′minutes
- 10Pellegrinicis replaced byEspositoBee 64′minutes
- 4Ramos Marchic
Match ends, England 0, Italy 0.
Second Half ends, England 0, Italy 0.
Foul by Jarrod Bowen (England).
Degnand Wilfried Gnonto (Italy) wins a free kick in the backcourt.
Sandro Tonali (Italy) has been shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Jarrod Bowen (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Sandro Tonali (Italy).
Foul by Kalvin Phillips (England).
Giacomo Raspadori (Italy) wins a free kick in the backcourt.
Corner, England. Produced by Bryan Cristante.
Kieran Trippier (England) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Federico Gatti (Italy).
Jack Grealish (England) wins a free kick in the backcourt.
Foul by Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Italy).
Replacement, England. Marc Guehi replaces Fikayo Tomori.
Replacement, Italy. Bryan Cristante replaces Matteo Pessina.
Replacement, Italy. Alessandro Florenzi replaces Federico Dimarco.
James Ward-Prowse (England) has been shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by James Ward-Prowse (England).
Matteo Pessina (Italy) wins a free kick in the attacking half.