|Date: Friday September 23 Time: 19:45 BST Location: San Siro, Milan Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sport website and app|
England meet Italy here in Milan 439 days later the Euro 2020 final at Wembley who brought desperation to the pitch, accompanied by bitterness and recrimination, and both are now trying to regain lost momentum.
The bare facts state that England suffered the familiar fate of defeat on penalties after a 1-1 draw, the disappointment exacerbated by the loss at home and after 55 years of waiting to reach a grand final.
It was a day when what should have been a celebratory occasion was marked by chaotic scenes caused by widespread hooliganism, a lack of crowd control as the barriers were stormed by ticketless England fans, and then the racial abuse suffered by Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after missing penalties in the shootout.
England and Italy are now coming together again in one of the most iconic arenas in the world, the San Siro, with that European Championship final that seems to last forever and both countries hope to erase the memories of poor results in their last matches.
Gareth Southgate’s England can at least use these two Nations League games against Italy and Germany to avoid their group’s relegation, as well as spectators for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar in November.
By contrast, Italy has fallen from grace after their deserved night of Wembley glory has been so quick and painful that they will see the match’s biggest showpiece from afar after losing a World Cup play-off to the minnows of North Macedonia in Palermo.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini had enough credit on the bench with the win at the European Championship to survive that humiliation, but all eyes will be on his side after losing 5-2 to Germany in their last game, the first time that someone has scored so many goals past the Azzurri since 1957.
England also have to stop a four-game slide without a win, their worst run since 2014, when they went winless for five games under then manager Roy Hodgson.
They have played 13 games, won seven, drew four and lost two since beating Italy at Wembley.
The optimism and national fervor that accompanied Southgate and England on their journey to the Euro 2020 final has no doubt faded over time, with a growing realization that failing to win a major domestic tournament must now be seen as a huge missed opportunity.
Has England really progressed since they lost to Italy? They haven’t really presented a compelling case to suggest they did.
Southgate first felt the full fury of fans after their final game, the 4-0 loss to Hungary at Molineux in June, the atmosphere laced with vitriol as what had previously been off-stage over his alleged conservative approach erupted. noisy in the public domain.
Chants of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ reverberated around Molineux, notoriously brief memories that were re-emphasized after Southgate led England to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals in Russia for the Euro 2020 final, proving that he does know what he is doing. England captain Harry Kane expressed disappointment after being asked about the manager’s position.
Southgate is as safe as the England coach. The Football Association admires his character, track record and everything else he brings to the organization. If he does leave, it will be at a time of his choosing, unless something out of the ordinary happens, after he has signed a contract that will take him through December 2024.
He cut a more world-weary figure than usual after Hungary’s defeat when almost everyone involved in those Nations League matches appeared to be suffering from football fatigue, and Southgate even caused a stir when he said at one point: “I won’t stay longer than my welcome.”
There is no doubt that the summer results have been mediocre, including a stark goalless draw with the Italians behind closed doors at Molineux, and Southgate has emerged after a period of reflection recognizing that he may have done things wrong.
Southgate said at the England team hotel in Milan: “I felt like I had compromised certain decisions internally and you don’t win if you compromise. I have to be completely ruthless and I have to create an environment for the players where they can excel. “
He declined to reveal the areas of compromise that were troubling him, but it was clear Southgate had learned lessons from an unsatisfactory summer experience.
Southgate will no doubt need performances and results in these next two Nations League matches to dispel the idea that England lost their great chance at Wembley on that damp night of chaos last July, that conditions are unlikely to be as favorable to them again. will be time soon.
The World Cup will do much to shape how his time as England manager will be viewed, along with his legacy. Expectations that had plummeted after dismal efforts in major tournaments under Fabio Capello and Hodgson have been awakened by what Southgate himself has achieved.
Southgate, it should not be forgotten, also inherited an English squad in disarray after the ill-fated reign of Sam Allardyce. This reservoir of goodwill can dry up quickly, even for managers with a long roster, so these two Nations League games will be instrumental in setting the mood ahead of the World Cup.
Of immediate concern for Southgate is finalizing his roster to go to Qatar, with just these two matches before he compiles the list of those he hopes will prove his England are running out of men and can finally claim the top prize that the men’s team has since eluded. 1966.
Brentford striker Ivan Toney was his standout roster and he joins Tammy Abraham in the fight to become captain Kane’s understudy, while Jude Bellingham’s brilliant Champions League performance for Borussia Dortmund against Manchester City last week only sparked calls for a place in the starting line-up increased.
The absence of first-choice keeper Jordan Pickford through injury means Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale, in goal for the 4-0 loss to Hungary, will want to push Newcastle United summer signings Nick Pope and Dean Henderson, on loan from Manchester United’s Nottingham Forest. . their claims to be next in line.
The involvement of Manchester United captain Harry Maguire will also come under heavy scrutiny after he was ousted by manager Erik ten Hag after a poor start to the season.
Italy poses a formidable barrier, especially at home, and it will be a real confidence boost if England can come out of the San Siro with a satisfying result, preferably a win, to blow away Molineux’s cobwebs.