except the destination was victory.
England somehow got their first victory in Italy for over 60 years, with another two half performance and over hyped insipid display of tedious back passing from Southgate’s favourites.
You have to wonder in the last 60 years has England faced such a shot shy Italian side as they did for their opening qualification game for Euro 2024. An Italian team so in transition they had to go begging an Argentinian, who has never played in Italy, to play up front for them. One of his grandparents watched the Godfather apparently.
The hosts started brightly, helped in no small part by England’s usual routine of passing it backwards from goal kicks. Generally fannying about at the back between four players who do a very good blind panic, aren’t too comfortable on the ball and have a proper howler in them at any minute.
It was no coincidence that England’s opener came from a set piece, as they lined up with players who can run but like to provide, while they’re wide players are more interested in personal glory than giving the other bloke a chance. Prime example of that was Grealish who spent the game doing his one trick. Cutting inside and trying to go for goal, but being blocked out because he’s so damn predictable, so throwing himself to the ground in the hope of winning a free kick.
This goal though came from a corner. Somehow in 2023 Harry Kane is still dropping off at the back post at corners, getting into space someone with his goal scoring record has no right to be in. The ball went over everyone and landed at Kane, whose shot was blocked with Rice scuffing it in for his third England goal. Enough apparently for him to be man of the match for some.
The first half continued with England on top and Italy looking like a shadow of even their most recent teams. It ended with England going in at the break two up.
It should have been more, making it more comfortable Again Kane having to be provider, when he should be on the end of crosses. But no. And those that are on the end haven’t got in them to anticipate where they should be. The highlight being his cut back to Grealish in added time at the end of the half. Some nice build up, with England actually passing to white shirts and doing so forward. But when it got to Grealish, he Sterling’d his effort. Not knowing which foot to play it with – and he’s only got one – or how to play it. The only thing worse than Grealish’s miss was the commentary of Dion Dublin trying to excuse the miss as a difficult chance for a player who cost £100m.
It was two by then and again it was from a set piece, or two set pieces. First another corner, then a penalty. Again Kane ghosts behind everyone but this time the Italian stops the ball getting to him with his arm. So a Kane penalty for England, all those days on from that World Cup miss. He didn’t miss this one. There was no saving this one. To get the all time England goal scoring record.
Breaking Rooney’s record and doing so having played 39 fewer games. Imagine if Kane had someone to lay the goals on for him, like previous players have had.
The second half had that familiar feel about it. What does Southgate do to them at half time? They always come out and sit back and invite more and more trouble. I mean there’s being sensible and there’s ending up with a back seven. And that’s what happened Saka coming back to play right back while Rice and Phillips joined in with the centre back pair. While Bellingham, who again they were all oozing over just completely disappeared.
And yet with this mass defence, they conceded. It was all Italy and even with how shot shy and poor in the final third they were it just looked like it was coming. That new Italian on the end of a nice reverse pass through the legs of Rice and he was all alone in the box – as Maguire was up field fouling someone – couldn’t be more simple.
Mancini was going to make changes straight after the goal – could you see Southgate doing that after an England goal? – but had to wait, he made four in a short space of time and they all had a positive influence for Italy. While Southgate made a like for like change. Foden for Grealish. One player who did nothing being replaced by another who would do nothing. Though he didn’t exactly have much time to do anything. Just the two touches in his 11 minutes on the pitch.
England had been picking up bookings for time wasting from even before the opening goal. Walker a particularly stupid one where he walked away from the ball that was at his feet to pick one up on yards away on the running track. Then Shaw gets one at a throw and then moments later he goes through the back of an Italian, with the hosts breaking forward. Screaming that Maguire was down was no defence, he had to go, for the stupidity alone. So Southgate brought Foden off for Trippier to play left back.
A bit later he brought on Reece James for Saka…
Dear Gareth Southgate… when you have to drop one of your very few attacking options to cover for your right back's inadequacies… then bring on another right back to cover for your right back's inadequacies… doesn't it say something about your right back… pic.twitter.com/czoLlPwBlU
— Toxic Web (@Toxic_Web) March 23, 2023
…it all sums up Southgate and his favourites. The Italian sub from Leeds, Gnonto, was running rings round Walker the only surprise from the whole thing was that the equaliser didn’t come. It was flat back 9 but the Italians didn’t have that cutting edge to finish off an England who were just asking for it, mustering just one shot on target all game, which was the goal.
And now they have England winning the Euros off the back of this one game…