19 mins: Everything is a bit messy now. Bonucci goes through Kane’s back. On the touchline, Southgate cheers. No idea why.
17 mins: Nothing comes from the corner.
16 mins: Raspadori rolls the ball wide to the right towards Barella, who is cut off by Saka and doesn’t need too much persuading to get down. A free kick just outside the English penalty area. Dimarco and Raspadori take turns for the dummy, running in absurd circles, then Dimarco finally drives low into the mixer. Poorly executed and absurd. The ball deflects for an Italian corner.
14 mins: England settled in after that shaky start. They lash the ball, prompting a few whistles from the home fans. Kane steps in from the right and tries to shake things up in a crowded club. Italy swarms and closes the door. Kane tries again on the left. No luck either. But it’s much better from visitors.
12 mins: England recycle possession, Sterling floating one from the left. Maguire, who had been left standing after the free kick, curls a sweet header on target. Donnarumma catches it without a fuss.
11 minutes: Foden’s delivery is not good, failing to beat the first man.
10 minutes: Jorginho crosses from the right. Too close to Pope, who claims without fuss. England go up the other end through Sterling, who is fouled as he heads to the left. Free kick. Everyone lines up on the edge of the Italian box.
8 minutes: San Siro isn’t full, so the mood isn’t up to snuff, although Italy continue to dominate possession.
6 minutes: England is everywhere in the shop. Scamacca turns around and digs a huge gap in the middle of the field. He has options on either side, but decides to shoot early and sends one screaming inches from the left post. I’m not sure Pope would get there, had he been on target.
5 minutes : Italy got off to a very good start. Dimarco arrives from the left. Scamacca rises above Maguire at far bat and sends a header up the right. Pope desperately gets it under the crossbar and Maguire concedes a corner. England handle this quite easily.
4 minutes: England are almost defeated by a single ball in the middle. Maguire steps up and Raspadori’s runs are cleared. Raspadori shoots straight at Pope, who parries well. Then the flag is raised for offside. Turns out Maguire executed the trap perfectly.
3 minutes: Barella finds some space down the right and looks to free Dimarco on the other flank with a raked diagonal pass. The ball flies safely out of play.
1 minute: Cristante leaves a little something on Foden, who felt it. A bold opening bet for a player with a suspension reservation.
England opens the ball. Tonight’s referee sent off Harry Maguire and Reece James the last time he took charge of a game against England (against Denmark at Wembley in 2020).
Before the match, a minute of silence in memory of Queen Elizabeth II and the victims of the recent floods in Italy. Respectfully observed.
The teams are out! Italy wear their famous azure, while England sport their new World Cup kit, white with blue shoulder pads. The action is only a few national anthems away. (God Save the King still doesn’t stumble, does it? Old habits, all that.)
Gareth Southgate speaks to Channel 4: “We are looking for a level of performance, that is the key. It’s a great stage to come and play, against high level opponents. Harry Maguire seems in good shape with his training, and it’s not like he’s gone ten weeks without a game. We think there was a good process with Jude Bellingham dipping his toe into the European Championship, then starting, then starting bigger games.
Bukayo Saka has a quick word with Channel 4. “We are quite positive. The future is more important than the past. We can no longer control the past. These games are very important, the last two before the World Cup, so we really want to win them both. This is our mentality.
Italy have three players who are one warning away from missing next week’s game in Hungary: Bryan Cristante, Nicolò Barella and Alessandro Bastoni.
England have five players who will miss Germany’s visit if they see yellow tonight: Kyle Walker, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Jack Grealish and James Ward-Prowse.
Both teams are coming out of hiding – England beaten 4-0 by Hungary, Italy spanked 5-2 in Germany – so there are plenty of changes. Gareth Southgate makes it six, with Eric Dier picking up his first cap since November 2020, Harry Maguire returning despite not having started in any of Manchester United’s last four Premier League games, Nick Pope replacing injured Jordan Pickford and Declan Rice, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden are also leaving. Roberto Mancini makes seven changes, with the return of Chelsea midfielder Jorginho and West Ham striker Gianluca Scamacca taking the place of the injured Ciro Immobile.
Italy: Donnarumma, Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Acerbi, Toloi, Cristante, Jorginho, Dimarco, Raspadori, Scamacca, Barella.
Replacements: Meret, Vicario, Luiz Felipe, Pobega, Frattesi, Gnonto, Emerson, Zerbin, Grifo, Gabbiadini, Esposito, Bastoni.
England: Pope, James, Dier, Maguire, Walker, Bellingham, Rice, Sterling, Foden, Saka, Kane.
Subs: Ramsdale, D Henderson, Trippier, Shaw, Grealish, Coady, Ward-Prowse, Tomori, Mount, Bowen, Alexander-Arnold, Abraham.
Arbitrator: Jesus Gil Manzano (Spain).
The last time England played, it happened…
…so, well, you know. In fact, England are on a four-match slip without a win, having made a terrible mess in Nations League Group A3 so far. Home and away defeats to Hungary, a lucky draw in Germany and a scoreless streak at Wolverhampton against Italy anchored Gareth Southgate’s side at the bottom of the table. If they lose at San Siro tonight, they will be knocked out of the top tier with extreme prejudice. In other words, it’s game time. Kick-off is at 7.45pm BST. It’s on!