After a poor start to their Nations League Group A3 campaign, England are desperate for a positive result against European champions Italy on Friday.
(This article was originally published 21.09.2022)
Gareth Southgate's men, beaten by the Azzurri on penalties in the final of Euro 2020, took just two points from four Nations League matches in June and a defeat in Milan would see the Three Lions relegated to League B for the first time in the brief history of the Uefa competition.
Italy vs. England
San Siro, Milan
19:45, Friday 23rd September 2022
|How to watch|
Italy 9/5, England 6/4, Draw 11/5
England took 26 points from a possible 30 in World Cup qualifying, topping their group with a tally of 39 goals in 10 matches, so hopes were high when they kicked off their Nations League bid in June.
However, England's players seemed more jaded than their rivals at the end of a gruelling club season and they suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat away to section outsiders Hungary on matchday one.
A 1-1 draw with Germany and a goalless stalemate against Italy followed before an astonishing 4-0 home defeat to the Hungarians at Molineux, where the Three Lions mustered only two shots on target and had John Stones sent off late on.
England's only goal in their four Nations League fixtures in June was a Harry Kane penalty against Germany and, with the World Cup in Qatar fast approaching, Southgate will expect far better from his much-admired attacking unit.
England are 6/4 to beat 9/5 hosts Italy at San Siro and it is 7/4 that the Three Lions rediscover their scoring touch and notch over 1.5 goals.
Captain Kane has enjoyed a productive start to the 2022/23 season with six goals in seven Premier League appearances for Tottenham and he is 5/1 to be the first goalscorer on Friday night.
England have a couple of interesting striking options in their Nations League squad. Tammy Abraham, a big hit in Serie A after his move from Chelsea to Roma in August 2021, is 11/4 to score at any time and Ivan Toney, called up for the first time after impressing for Brentford in the Premier League, is 13/5 to find the net.
Italy's Euro 2020 success was the highlight of a record-breaking unbeaten run of 37 international matches which came to an end with a 2-1 defeat to Spain in the Nations League semi-finals last October.
Worse was to follow for Roberto Mancini's European champions, who missed out on automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup after being held to draws by Switzerland and Northern Ireland.
They were just 1/6 to beat playoff semi-final opponents North Macedonia in 90 minutes but suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to the minnows before losing 3-0 to Argentina in June's Finalissima – a clash between the reigning South American and European champions – at Wembley.
A 5-2 Nations League defeat in Germany, who led 5-0 before conceding two late goals, rounded off a miserable set of June fixtures for Mancini's men, which helps to explain why they are rated slight outsiders for the home game against England.
The failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar leaves the Azzurri in a rebuilding phase and nine of the 15 midfielders and forwards in their latest squad are aged 23 or younger.
The youngest of those starlets is 18-year-old Leeds United attacker Wilfried Gnonto, who scored his first international goal in the defeat to Germany and is 7/2 to find the net against England.
At the other end of the experience scale is 116-cap centre-back and captain Leonardo Bonucci. The Juventus stalwart scored Italy's equaliser in the Euro 2020 final and is 16/1 to notch at San Siro while the hosts are 10/3 to win to nil.
History points to another tight contest
Clashes between these teams have traditionally been tight and none of the last 18 meetings, dating back to 1976, have featured over 3.5 goals.
It is 10/3 that Friday's fixture bucks that trend by producing four or more goals and the draw has to be considered at 11/5.
June's stalemate at Molineux was the fourth consecutive draw between Italy and England, including the Euro 2020 final which was 1-1 after 90 and 120 minutes.
Six of the last 10 games between these well-matched rivals have ended all-square and the other four were all decided by a one-goal margin with Italy winning three of them and England triumphing 2-1 in a 2012 friendly.
England need to beat the Azzurri and Germany on Monday to be sure of retaining their League A status so Southgate's side may have to take more risks than usual as the game goes on and it is 5/6 that a goal is scored after 69:59 on the clock.