In the latest rematch of the 2020 European Championship final, England again exacted revenge for Italy’s 2021 win by beating the Azzurri 3-1 Tuesday at Wembley Stadium in London to qualify for Euro 2024.
Gianluca Scamacca gave the visitors the lead against the run of play in the 15th minute, but Harry Kane soon equalized from the penalty spot. England, which also beat Italy in Naples in March, needed only a tie to secure a trip to next year’s continental championship in Germany. They pushed to win anyway, with Marcus Rashford breaking the deadlock on a gorgeous second half strike before Kane added a third to qualify the Three Lions in style:
Play of the game
Jude Bellingham — perhaps the most in-form attacker in the world based on his sizzling start for Real Madrid — didn’t score the winner for England, but he did help create it.
The 20-year-old midfielder started the sequence with a ball-winning slide tackle at the top of his own 18 yard box. He then took off running, received the pass from Phil Foden and surged past a defender and up the field before finding Rashford off to his left. A clever diagonal run then opened space that Rashford cut into before firing the ball home to all but seal England’s spot at the 24-nation main event.
It didn’t take the hosts long to equalize and cancel out Italy’s opener. Bellingham was the catalyst then, too, emerging from a sea of defenders to race in alone on Italian backstop Gianluigi Donnarumma — only to be cut down by a sliding Giovanni Di Lorenzo before he could shoot. It looked like a stone cold penalty and, after a surprisingly lengthy VAR look, the spot kick was indeed given.
England captain and all-time top scorer Kane stepped up to take it, sending Donnarumma diving the wrong way with his 60th career strike at the international level:
Another home game, another win. England has now gone 19 matches at Wembley without losing. Their last defeat there came three years ago this month, when Denmark upset the hosts — who played the final hour of that contest with 10 men after Harry Maguire was shown a red card in the first half — 1-0.
What’s next for England
Gareth Southgate’s side still has two qualifying games left to go: at home to Malta on Nov. 17 and at North Macedonia three days later. But with a berth in next summer’s continental showpiece now assured, the longtime England manager can use those games to experiment or rest some of his regulars, or both.
The ultimate goal is to be ready to contend for a title in Germany. England came oh-so-close to breaking its half century-plus run of futility in major tournament play last time around, squandering an early lead at Wembley in 2021 and eventually losing, on penalties, to the Azzurri.
With Bellingham driving the bus this time and Kane as lethal in front of goal as ever, this England squad looks like an even more serious title threat.
What’s next for Italy
Tuesday’s defeat left the defending European champions behind both England and Ukraine in the Group C standings; only the top two teams will qualify for Euro 2024 directly.
Assuming the Azzurri wins its game in hand at home to North Macedonia on Nov. 17 — no guarantee there after the same opponent denied Italy a World Cup trip last year — it would set up a winner-take-all head-to-head matchup with the Ukrainians on the final day of qualifying.
Even if Italy doesn’t finish second, they’d still have a lifeline, though: because the Italians won their UEFA Nations League group, they’re ensured at least a place in March’s playoffs for the final three Euro 2024 participants.
England vs. Italy Highlights | European Qualifiers
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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