In Nations League terms, that’s England’s relegation. The Group B meeting of countries awaits from here. Next time, England could leave for Georgia on an overnight train. Not to mention Albania or Montenegro.
The bigger picture is what this says about England’s World Cup preparations. England have now scored one goal in competitive football since beating San Marino last November. And they aren’t super tight in the back like they used to be.
This was a less strong Italy – which won’t even be in Qatar, don’t forget that – but still they found a way through. It was a great goal from Giacomo Raspadori, only 22 and much of the next generation in Italian football, but he turned Kyle Walker inside out before unleashing a fantastic shot – and until then England’s central three was the good news of the night.
Italy’s Giacomo Raspadori celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game against England on Friday night
Raspadori broke the deadlock midway through the first half with a fine attack after brilliantly knocking the ball down
The Italian No. 10 was able to make room for himself under pressure from Kyle Walker (right) before finding the far corner
Phil Foden (left), Jude Bellingham (center) and Kyle Walker show their frustration after Italy’s opening goal
Italy: Donnarumma, Toloi, Bonucci, Acerbi, Di Lorenzo, Barella (Pobega 63), Jorginho (Emerson Palmieri 89), Cristante, Dimarco (Frattesi 89), Scamacca (Gnonto 63), Raspadori (Gabbiadini 81)
Subs not used: Bastoni, Esposito, Vicario, Zerbin, Felipe, Grifo, Meret
Booked: Bonucci, DiLorenzo.
Goal: Raspadori 68
England: Pope, Walker (Shaw 72), Dier, Maguire, James, Bellingham, Rice, Saka (Grealish 72), Foden, Kane, Sterling
subs not used: Ramsdale, Abraham, Tomori, Dean Henderson, Mount, Ward-Prowse, Trippier, Bowen, Coady, Alexander-Arnold
Referee: Jesus Gil Manzano (Spain)
Still, a 7-1 deficit in this group with a home game against Germany to go tells its own story. England are nowhere near the last major international tournament and it would be an astonishing turnaround if they achieved similar results to the 2021 European Championships.
What went wrong in a little over a year? Players have lost form, others have been lost through injury. But it was Italy that was below par here. And they looked more lively, energetic and faster during the break. The better team won, it’s that simple.
Raspadori gave the home side what they deserved. England had some chances late, but also large parts of the game where they offered nothing, let alone what they were trying to achieve.
So it is a concern. It was 1978 the last time England won a competitive match against Italy and in 2012 they even won a friendly match between the countries for the last time.
This was the team that had to rewrite those old stories, now they’re conforming to it. Well-known opponents are also on the horizon in Qatar, not least Wales in the group stage. It could be the Netherlands in the last 16, most likely France in the quarter-finals; and England looks likely to be knocked out by the first good team they play. Just like before.
There seemed to be desperation over Harry Kane when, found late in the game by Jude Bellingham, he fired a shot at Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and then, when the ball went out to him, he did it again, rather than trying to beat a team. find… mate in the middle.
England were close on two occasions after that – Reece James forced Donnarumma another good save from a free kick to the left before Bellingham headed out from ten yards on James’ cross – but Italy were worthy winners.
It was often difficult to pinpoint England’s target and some of the decisions were staggering. Jack Grealish came on as a substitute and figured to be booked for shouting dissent in the face of referee Jesus Gil Manzano. He misses the next game – England’s last and only game before the World Cup. How silly was that?
Pressure on manager Gareth Southgate mounted as his side continued to struggle for the World Cup
Harry Kane was limited to a few shots as the Three Lions failed to cause much trouble for the Italian defense
Defender Harry Maguire kept his place in England’s starting XI but couldn’t help them avoid another defeat
This was not, it must be said, a classic. Italy doesn’t have a World Cup to prepare for, England does, but are too distracted trying to get key players into shape and match fitness. It didn’t produce much spectacle in the first half. 41 minutes and 48 seconds had passed when England collected their first shot on goal, a hopeful shot of range on the run from Kane who drove well over the crossbar.
Italy had a stronger start, but there’s a reason this team had only won two of their last nine games in this one. The low turnout was an indication. The top row behind one goal was completely empty and the usual pre-match showdown with cards in the colors of the Italian flag looked a mess with so many holes and empty spaces. The map flag looked battered, as if riddled with machine-gun bullet holes.
But this was still Italy at San Siro, so there was noise and enthusiasm when they were on the ball or approaching goal and certainly when Raspadori, the promising young Napoli forward, outpaced Harry Maguire to run for goal early on. He was rated marginal offside and Nick Pope saved anyway, but the sight of Maguire on the wrong side of his man, struggling to keep up and making lost attempts to pull him back, was all too familiar to those who witnessed his most recent performances. for Manchester United. What went wrong with him?
The traveling England fans had little to cheer for in the San Siro on what was another miserable night for their team
There were more problems after five minutes when Pope appeared to be in a bad position to handle a cross from the left and Maguire was knocked out by West Ham striker Gianluca Scamacca. His header hit the outside of the post and was half blocked by Pope, who had now recovered his position, but it was a bit of a shock.
Bukayo Saka deployed on the left wing was one of Gareth Southgate’s braver statements, but again, the jury is out. Sometimes huge swathes of space arose on his side, as can happen when a player plays a role he is not quite familiar with.
Italy saw it too and started hitting the area with hitting crossfield balls. One of them found Nicola Barella in enough space to turn an ocean liner, but his crotch was poorly controlled by Raspadori and the moment passed. Better was a 38 minute shot from Bryan Cristante – thundering and aiming – that hit a white shirt and bounced off to safety.
Arsenal star Bukayo Saka was asked to play left-back and never looked comfortable before being substituted
Worryingly for England and Southgate, however, this wasn’t even an experimental side. Apart from Pope – the first Newcastle keeper in over a century – where the injured Jordan Pickford is said to have been, this could well be the basis for Iran’s first World Cup game.
Bellingham played in the midfield more familiarly occupied by Kalvin Phillips, was injured and a fateful move to Manchester City did not put him out of action. Saka as a left-back was undoubtedly on trial, taking a place previously occupied by the out-of-form Mason Mount – or, indeed, by a true left-back if Southgate had been favored by someone in form.
Meanwhile, the centre-backs saw a pairing of the red-hot Eric Dier with the stone-cold Maguire, arguably the greatest beneficiary of Southgate’s allegiance. John Stones was out, suspended – but oddly enough, Animal he is more likely to replace. Maguire still seems untouchable.
Southgate leaves the field after his side was officially relegated to the second tier of the Nations League
In some ways it is understandable. If Maguire loses his place because of his status at Manchester United, then Southgate is not the England coach and Erik ten Hag is. That said, no one would argue that Maguire’s form is of the standard demanded for top international football. Just two minutes into the second half, Dier arguably made the tackle of the night on Cristante, powerful and perfectly timed in the penalty area. How Maguire must have wished he could have been. It’s exactly what he needs now to build his confidence.
Still, there is one game left for Qatar, Monday against Germany at Wembley, and one more chance for many players to find their way. It has to happen if England is to have a chance. What is seen as an easy group can become very difficult, very quickly for a team with no rhyme or rhythm. And no one is relegated from a World Cup. They just go home.
Check out how it all went with Sportsmail’s live blog below.