One bowing out during the quarterfinal stage, the other not even qualified for the tournament finals, both England and Italy have had their disappointments in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which is why they came to the 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifiers with only one goal: Shrug off their upsets last year and reach the 2024 UEFA Euro Finals in Germany with flying colours. This match at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona was a repeat of the 2020 UEFA Euro Final, in which the Roberto Mancini’s gli Azzurri beaten the Southgate-led Three Lions on penalties at Wembley Stadium last time around.
The visitors earned their hard-fought victory at enemy territory, thanks to Declan Rice’s strike and Harry Kane’s recording-breaking 54th goal for his country.
Three Lions Off to a Great Start
The opening 45 minutes were largely dominated by Gareth Southgate’s side. Borussia Dortmund’s midfield wonderkid Jude Bellingham hit a shot straight at Gianluigi Donnarumma in the 12th minute, forcing the 1.96m tall goalkeeper to parry the strike away for a corner. The subsequent set-piece led to the first goal of the evening, when Arsenal’s in-form winger Bukayo Saka whipped in a dangerous cross into the penalty box. England captain Kane was the first to meet the ball, but his strike was repelled by the Italians, before the ball ricocheted to West Ham United’s midfielder Declan Rice to score his third goal for England.
England had opportunities to extend its lead in the game, including a Kalvin Phillips long-ranged strike that went outside of the post just after the half-hour mark. The team finally doubled its lead few minutes later, when another Saka corner almost found Kane in the penalty box, if it was not Giovanni Di Lorenzo, who was penalised for a penalty after handling the ball. The decision was given upon video assistant referee (VAR) check, and Kane was ever ready to put home his 54th goal at international level. The Tottenham Hotspur talisman made the shot stopper guess the wrong way by slotting the ball into the right area and leapfrogging Wayne Rooney as the all-time goal scorer for the English side.
England took the comfortable lead till the second period, before 23-year-old debutant Mateo Retegui pulled one back for the home side in the 56th minute. Three Lions were struggling to clear the ball away from their own half, allowing the Italians to intercept the ball. Captain Marco Verratti then found Lorenzo Pellegrini in the middle, before the AS Roma skipper unleashed the San Fernando-born Retegui to score his first ever goal for Italy.
Wayne Rooney congratulating Harry Kane on surpassing his England goal scoring record ❤️🏴 pic.twitter.com/tOrrt1rKDB
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) March 23, 2023
England Was Down to Ten Men
The visitors were reduced to ten men ten minutes before time, as Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw’s lunging tackle saw himself booked for the second time. His red card meant England had to defend its one-goal lead in the remaining gameplay, and will miss the team’s next game versus Ukraine at home. Fortunately to Shaw and Three Lions, the Italians could not find the equaliser, allowing the visitors to prevail and achieve their first ever win in Italy for more than six decades. The emphatic triumph also meant Italy had suffered its first European Qualifier defeat at home for the first time in nearly 25 years.
Southgate Lauded Record Breaker Kane
Gareth Southgate was a happy man during the post-match conference and he could not hide his appreciation towards his captain, the 29-year-old record-setting Kane. “Kane was extraordinary. Breaking the record in these conditions demonstrates all the mental strength he has. It’s truly an exceptional achievement; the players cheered for him and this is a reaction both to the record and what he had to go through in Qatar”, said the 52-year-old England gaffer.
He also added: “We had an exceptional first half, while it was a very tough second half. We showed two different faces; we controlled the game very well in the first half as soon as we escaped the first line of pressing and at the interval it might have been 3-0. At the beginning of the second half we made some wrong decisions and the momentum changed.”
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A Record-Breaking Evening for Football Megastars
Kane was not the only player who set a record at international stage last night, as two of the greatest footballers of all time, Portugal‘s Cristiano Ronaldo became the all-time most-capped men’s international footballer and Argentina’s Lionel Messi scored his 800th career goal for club and country respectively.