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England suffer Nations League relegation after Italy defeat

England suffer Nations League relegation after Italy defeat

England have been relegated to League B in the UEFA Nations League after succumbing to a 1-0 defeat to Italy in a drab affair at San Siro.

Gareth Southgate‘s men were condemned to defeat by Giacomo Raspadori‘s goal in the 68th minute, and a shot-shy Three Lions attack were quelled at ease by the European Champions as their preparations for the World Cup took yet another hit.

A much-maligned England XI saw Southgate give Nick Pope the nod in goal over Aaron Ramsdale, while the likes of Eric Dier, Harry Maguire and Bukayo Saka were also handed starts at San Siro.

Ingenuity was not on the menu for either side in the opening exchanges, although West Ham United’s Gianluca Scamacca managed to get the better of Maguire at the back post to force Pope into a save from his header.

Roberto Mancini‘s side hustled and harried England in the early minutes without testing Pope too much, but England also struggled to work Gianluigi Donnarumma after enjoying more possession.

With the two sides going into half time at 0-0, Friday’s game marked the fifth time in a row that England had failed to score in the first half of any game – matching a profligate streak from all the way back in 1985.

Saka – who was named England’s Men’s Player of the Year for 2021-22 earlier on Friday – was struggling to adapt to his left-wing back role in particular, as Italy remained largely unthreatened by the Three Lions.

Concern was sparked over captain Harry Kane early in the second half, as a clash with Rafael Toloi drew blood from the Tottenham Hotspur man, but he was able to return to the field of play.

Before Kane was presented with any sort of chance to threaten Donnarumma, Italy carved their way through the Three Lions backline as Nicolo Barella poked just wide on the stretch from close range, but Federico Dimarco was offside anyway.

By the three-quarter mark, Southgate retained faith in the 11 players who started the game, but it was the reigning European champions who eventually made the breakthrough in the 68th minute.

A long ball over the top from Leonardo Bonucci met the boot of Raspadori, who got the right side of Kyle Walker and took the ball down expertly before finding the far corner from just inside the area.

England failed to close the Napoli forward down sufficiently on the edge of the box, allowing him ample time and space to unleash a powerful drive and leave Pope with no chance.

More to follow.

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