England and Italy share spoils as their UEFA Nations League woes continue to build

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England National Team’s winless Nations League run continued as an experimental Three Lions side failed to beat European champions Italy at Molineux.

England and Italy shares spoils as their UEFA Nations League woes continue to build

This was a behind-closed-doors match as punishment for the mayhem that accompanied their last meeting when Italy defeated England in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

Thousands of ecstatic schoolchildren provided a vibrant backdrop for Gareth Southgate’s team in Wolverhampton, and Mason Mount’s shot against the crossbar in the first half came close to giving them the goal they craved.

After the half, Raheem Sterling, who was captain for the evening with Harry Kane among the replacements, missed a glorious chance from close range from Reece James’ slick pass.

However, goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale had to be alert on multiple occasions to prevent the Azzurri from inflicting yet another defeat on Southgate’s side, who are currently bottom of Group A3 with two points after three games.

England too predictable

After a draw in Germany and an opening defeat by Hungary, England played their third game in 11 days, with manager Southgate making six changes from the Munich match.

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The hectic schedule came after a long domestic season in which the players had little time to recover after last summer’s postponed Euros, in which Southgate’s team finished second to a resurgent Italy.

After this, and despite leading England to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, Southgate continues to divide opinion – who among England’s managers hasn’t? Perhaps their lack of offensive coordination was due to a combination of fatigued legs and an unfamiliar starting XI.

The hosts were not brave enough, and too predictable, to cause as much bother as they would have liked to a well-organized but hardly vintage Italian side, with Roberto Mancini’s team barely recognisable from their Euros success last summer.

England and Italy shares spoils as their UEFA Nations League woes continue to build

England, on the other hand, would believe they had chances to win the game.

When goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma fluffed his pass, Tammy Abraham was presented with a great opportunity, but Manuel Locatelli’s last-ditch challenge knocked the forward off his stride as he set to shoot.

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Mount then hit the crossbar after being sent in by Sterling, who could only assist James’ appealing pass from the right side over the top in the second half.

That was the result of a long, methodical build-up, but England was sometimes sluggish to adapt and simple to defend against.

At the other end, Ramsdale, who came in for Jordan Pickford, did his future with the national team no harm by making three good saves in the first half against a flurry of quick Italy raids.

It’s the first time England hasn’t beaten Italy since 2012, and it’s the first time they’ve done so in a competitive match since 1977.

Italy still unbeaten

While Mancini’s side was crowned European champions in their last match with England, the Azzurri were knocked out of World Cup qualification in a shock play-off semi-final defeat by North Macedonia in March and will not be traveling to Qatar later this year.

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Their Nations League campaign got off to a good start with a draw against Germany and a win over Hungary, and they are still unblemished after a hard-fought tie in Wolverhampton, as former Manchester City manager Mancini plots the team’s long-term future.

Even though just two of the players who started against England in the final at Wembley last summer started this one, the visitors still managed to create a few decent openings, particularly in the first half.

England and Italy shares spoils as their UEFA Nations League woes continue to build

In the opening stages, Davide Frattesi squandered a huge chance to put them ahead when he slid a low effort beyond the far post, while Ramsdale made a fantastic save to deny Sandro Tonali.

Italy finished the first 45 minutes with purpose but were unable to maintain that pace after the break. Ginaluca Scamacca also sliced over from a dangerous position which ended in futility.

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