Nazionale A

A beauty from Raspadori gives Italy victory over England, Azzurri on track for the Nations League Final Four

In front of 50,000 at San Siro, Italy beat England 1-0 with a belter from the Napoli striker. A win on Monday in Budapest would see the Azzurri reach the final stages of the competition for the second time running

Friday, September 23, 2022

A beauty from Raspadori gives Italy victory over England, Azzurri on track for the Nations League Final Four

13 months after that unforgettable night at Wembley, Giacomo Raspadori's beautiful strike gave Italy victory over England demonstrating that that historic win wasn't all for nothing and is in safe hands as the team moves forward.

In front of 50,000 at San Siro, a patched up squad with several players key sidelined - Spinazzola, Verratti, Chiesa and Insigne were just some of the names missing - saw Mancini change system and start with a 3-5-2. But Bonucci, Acerbi and Toloi put in fine performances keeping Kane, Sterling and Foden quiet for most of the night. Sealing the win was Raspadori halfway through the second half with a right-footed Insigne-esque like strike that relegates England to League B in their next Nations League campaign, while Italy's hopes for the Final stages remain. A win over Hungary (victorious against Germany this evening) in Budapest on Monday would mean top spot and a second successive appearance at the Final Four. But the win has also earned the team to be top seeds in the draw for the next European Championships.

THE MATCH. Only nine players from the final at Wembley took part in the game: Donnarumma, Di Lorenzo, Barella and Jorginho for Italy, Maguire, Rice, Sterling and Kane for England. With a long list of absences (Chiesa, Spinazzola, Verratti, Insigne, Berardi, Pellegrini, Locatelli, Politano, Florenzi and Tonali), Ciro Immobile was also added to the list hours before kick-off, so Mancini decided to change tactics and go with a 3-5-2 formation with a back line consisting of Bonucci, Acerbi and Toloi. The holding midfield position was given to Jorginho with Cristante and Barella either side of him, and Di Lorenzo and Inter's Dimarco out wide. Up front, the former Sassuolo duo, Scamacca and Raspadori, were reunited. With only two months to go to the World Cup, England Head Coach Southgate wasn't in the mood to experiment and set up in 3-4-3 system with Saka being prefered to Mount, and Foden and Sterling supporting Harry Kane up front. In defence, the much-criticised Maguire with Milan's Tomori surprisingly left out. 

Wearing black armbands to honour the victims of the recent floodings in the Marches region, the Azzurri started off brightly with Scamacca heading against the crossbar after only five minutes from Dimarco's back post cross. Italy were happy to give possession to the away side, squeezing the play when necessary through its three defenders. Scamacca had the arduous job of trying to push the team forward and lead the line. On the half-hour mark, some good play from Cristante and Barella found Raspadori but he couldn't get it under control and the chance fell away. The match was tight with little action of note. Donnarumma and Pope were busier with their feet than their hands and at the half-way stage, the 0-0 score reflected that.

After the break, Italy came out again the quicker of the two sides as Rice intercepted well from Cristante after another Dimarco ball into the danger area. After a quarter of an hour of the second half, Mancini rung the changes taking off Scamacca and Barella for Gnonto and Pobega. And not long after, the deadlock was broken through Giacomo Raspadori's superb strike: the Napoli striker controlled a long clearance from Bonucci superbly, he shielded the ball from Walker, turned and struck a right-footed thunderbolt past Pope. It was his fourth goal in the Azzurri shirt at a ground where he had already shown his credentials for Sassuolo in the past. Southgate put on Shaw for Walker and Grealish for the quiet Saka as they looked for an equaliser. Donnarumma was smart to make a double save from Kane in the space of a few seconds, but it was Italy who looked the more dangerous as they came close to doubling their lead: first, sub Gabbiadini, replacing Raspadori, shot straight at Pope, then Dimarco struck a fierce shot across goal that hit the post. Cristante had a glorious opportunity shooting high over from inside the box, and in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Bellingham's header was just off target. 50,000 at San Siro celebrated at the final whistle, shouting out 'We are European Champions'. A place in the Final Four is at stake in Budapest on Monday evening and a win, like the one this evening and in June in Cesena - Marco Rossi and Hungary's only defeat in this group - would very much be welcome.