Five Great Wins for England against Italy

After England’s first win in the Netherlands since 1969, they take on Italy at home tonight. So far the two nations have met twenty-six times in all competitions and friendlies. England have won eight, Italy ten with eight draws. Here are five wins for England against The Azzurri.

1976 Bicentennial Tournament, Yankee Stadium, New York, USA. 28th May 1976

With neither England or Italy qualifying for the European Championships they received an invitation from the United States to take part in a mini-tournament as part of the celebrations for the two hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in USA. They were joined by Brazil and Team America, a side comprised of players playing in the North American Soccer League (NASL) and included Bobby Moore, Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia. You therefore had the odd occasion where Bobby Moore (England), Pele (Brazil) and Chinaglia (Italy) all played against their native nations. England refused to classify their match against Team America as a full international and so there were no caps awarded and Kevin Keegan’s two goals didn’t count in his tally for his country.

England had lost their opening game, against Brazil, with Italy beating Team America, when Fabio Capello scored one of the goals. England then took on Italy at the Yankee Stadium, New York.

The game came just a fortnight after England’s defeat at Wembley against Scotland, which prompted the pitch invasion and demolition of the goalposts, and so when Francesco Graziani had scored twice in the opening twenty minutes, things didn’t look good.

England’s manager, Don Revie, had given first caps to Jimmy Rimmer, Joe Corrigan, Tony Towers, Ray Wilkins and Gordon Hill.

The pitch was a joke with one half being sand from the baseball diamond, so not surprisingly all the goals came at the other end.

At half-time with England still trailing, Revie swapped Rimmer for Corrigan in goal and England were much more inventive in the second half. Within minutes of the re-start Brooking crossed from the right and Royle had his shot saved by Zoff, only for Mick Channon to fire in the rebound.

Within sixty seconds England were level. Hill took a corner on the right and Phil Thompson rose above his marker to head the ball in for his first goal for his country. Then three minutes later the comeback was complete. Brooking was again heavily involved and his cross from the right found Channon at the far post who bundled it over the line. The Southampton striker was captaining his country for the first time and he’d earned them a great win when seemingly dead and buried at the break.

ENGLAND   (0)   3   (Channon 47, 51; Thompson 48)

ITALY   (2)   2   (Graziani 15, 18)

ENGLAND: Rimmer (Arsenal) [Corrigan (Man City)]; Clement (QPR), Thompson (Liverpool), Doyle (Man City), Neal (Liverpool) [Mills (Ipswich)]; Brooking (West Ham), Wilkins (Chelsea), Towers (Sunderland); Royle (Man City), Channon (Southampton), Hill (Man Utd)

ITALY: Zoff; Roggi [Maldera], Facchetti, Bellugi, Rocca; Capello, Benetti [Zaccarelli], Pulici, Antognoni; Causio [Sala], Graziani

1977 World Cup Qualifier, Wembley Stadium. 16th November 1977

England’s attempt to qualify for the 1978 tournament had begun badly right from the draw stage. These were the days before Iron Curtain fell and so a lot of the countries we have in Europe now were packaged up as either the Soviet Union (USSR) or Yugoslavia. For this qualifying campaign there were only thirty one teams, with some groups having just three sides and others, four. England was drawn into a group of four along with two minnows, Finland and Luxembourg, but also Italy. The games with Italy were clearly going to be vital, but so was goal difference.

Just after the South American tour in the summer, manager Don Revie shocked the country by resigning for a job in UAE. England then turned to Ron Greenwood who was West Ham manager during their halcyon days of the mid-sixties. Greenwood was considered a steady hand, with excellent coaching skills, although there were concerns over his man-management ability as some considered him too nice for the role. What England certainly needed was some stability after the tempestuous Revie reign.

By the time Italy arrived at Wembley, England were staring another qualification failure having stayed at home for the 1974 tournament. They’d lost 0-2 in Rome and only beaten Finland 2-1 at home. Greenwood’s first qualifying game was a tepid 2-0 win in Luxembourg when Italy thumped Finland 6-1, and they were now facing goal difference as their only route past the Italians. England needed to beat the Italians by three clear goals otherwise a victory of any margin for the Italians in their final qualifying game at home to Luxembourg would see them make the trip to Argentina.

For this game Greenwood awarded debuts to three players, Peter Barnes (Manchester City), Steve Coppell (Manchester United) and Bob Latchford (Everton). He adopted a 4-2-4 formation with Barnes and Coppell providing the width. Emlyn Hughes won his fiftieth cap and was captain.

This game was live on tv, only the second match of the campaign to receive such treatment. England had the ideal start after eleven minutes when Trevor Brooking floated in a cross from the right and Kevin Keegan brilliantly looped his header past Dino Zoff. Peter Barnes missed a chance to double the lead soon after but his shot bounced wide. Then midway through the half Barnes had another chance to run at the defence from twenty yards out and beat three defenders, Gentile, Benetti and Facchetti before his shot was saved by Zoff at the near post. Then came the moment which shocked the nation when Marco Tardelli elbowed Keegan in the face as the two chased a ball which was heading towards the corner flag. We all saw it on tv, most of the stadium saw it too but for some reason the referee chose to only award a free-kick and keep his cards in his pocket.

Minutes later Keegan again took on Tardelli in the area, with the Italian defender putting the ball out for a corner and taking England’s talisman with it. Tardelli then accused Keegan of diving, to which the Liverpool striker responded by pushing him away. The referee saw this and decided to give Keegan a yellow card. Odd what some refs consider worthy of punishment.

With ten minutes to go England were still only a goal up when Coppell found Keegan wide on the right and he turned inside and flicked the ball with the outside of his foot into the penalty area where Brooking had made a run, and the unmarked West Ham number ten slid the ball under Zoff and England were 2-0 up.

It ended 2-0. It was a good performance from England after some turgid ones under the previous regime but it was too little too late. Italy then beat Luxembourg 3-0 and qualified for the World Cup. England had to wait another four years before appearing once again on the world stage

ENGLAND   (1)   2   (Keegan 11, Brooking 80)

ITALY   (0)   0

ENGLAND: Clemence (Liverpool); Neal (Liverpool), Watson (Man City), Hughes (Liverpool), Cherry (Leeds); Wilkins (Chelsea), Brooking (West Ham); Coppell (Man Utd), Keegan (Hamburg) [Francis (Birmingham)], Latchford (Everton) [Pearson (Man Utd)], Barnes (Man City)

ITALY: Zoff; Tardelli, Facchetti [Cuccureddu], Mozzini, Gentile; Causio, Benetti, Zaccarelli, Antognoni; Bettega, Graziani [Sala]

1997, Le Tournoi, Nantes. 4th June 1997

Le Tournoi was a mini-tournament arranged as preparation for the World Cup in France a year later. The French had invited three nations to take part, England, Italy and Brazil. The competition was played on a round-robin basis over a week and got underway when France and Brazil drew 1-1 in Lyon, with Roberto Carlos scoring THAT free-kick. It was an outrageous piece of skill bending the ball so much it seemed to make a left turn before hitting the back of the net, and set the trend for the player seeming to spend the rest of his career failing to replicate it.

England were in the middle of a qualifying campaign which involved Italy. The Italians had won at Wembley three months before so it was a little ambitious to be certain England would even make it to the World Cup in France. By then they were under the tutelage of Glenn Hoddle, who had proved to be an impressive tactician, especially away from home.

Hoddle employed five at the back with Paul Ince taking the armband. During this tournament England played some of their finest football, and their first goal was evidence of this. Paul Scholes had the ball in the centre circle and waited for Ian Wright to make a run, and then found him with a lovely ball over the defence. The ball was perfectly weighted to allow the Arsenal striker to steady himself and fire a left-foot shot past Peruzzi, who’d hesitated on whether to come for the ball or not.

Then just before the break Stuart Pearce hit a ball with the outside of his left-foot to find Wright clear on the left. He crossed into the area where Scholes had moved into the space and the young Manchester United man, making his first start for England, fired a great shot past Peruzzi.

England were in complete control now and never looked like conceding. It was a great victory and set the scene for further performances as England won the mini-tournament, giving great hope of getting past the Italians to return to France a year later

ENGLAND   (2)   2   (Wright 26, Scholes 43)

ITALY   (0)   0

ENGLAND: Flowers (Blackburn); P Neville (Man Utd), Southgate (Aston Villa), Keown (Arsenal), Pearce (Notts Forest), Le Saux (Blackburn) [G Neville (Man Utd)]; Beckham (Man Utd), Ince (Inter), Scholes (Man Utd); Wright (Arsenal) [A Cole (Man Utd)], Sheringham (Tottenham) [Gascoigne (Rangers)]

ITALY: Peruzzi; Ferrara [Nesta], Cannavaro, Costacurta, Benarrivo; D Baggio, Albertini, di Matteo [Fuser], di Livio [Maini]; Zola, Casiraghi

1997 World Cup Qualifier, Stadio Olimpico, Rome. 11th October 1997

Qualification for the 1998 World Cup in France saw England drawn in the same group as Italy, just as they had done twenty years before. But this time there were five sides in the group and two qualification opportunities. Only the group winners were certain of making the finals with the runners-up going into a two-legged play-off, although there was an opportunity for the team with the best record of those placed second in all the nine groups, to go through automatically.

The other sides in the group were Poland, Georgia and Moldova. England blinked first when a Gianfranco Zola goal at Wembley gave Italy a crucial advantage in February 1997. Both sides had won all their matches up to that point, but then the Italians stumbled when they were held to a goalless draw in Poland two months later. England arrived in Poland a month later and won 2-0.

England’s win over Italy in Le Tournoi was a great fillip for them and their confidence was boosted further when Italy were again held to a goalless draw, this time in Georgia. So to October and England arrived at the Olympic Stadium in Rome for their final game of the group with a one point advantage over Italy. If England could hold Italy to a draw then they’d be in the finals, but Italy had won all their matches at home without conceding a goal and had also beaten England eight months previously.

The odds seemed stacked against England, they hadn’t qualified for the previous World Cup and Italy were a penalty kick away from being World Champions in that tournament. England manager Glenn Hoddle produced a tactical masterclass. He’d developed this way of playing away from home employing Paul Ince and David Batty as enforcers in front of the back four. Time and again they had snuffed out attacks, disrupted play and simply became pests around opposing attackers. Continually stealing the ball allowed David Beckham and Paul Gascoigne to provide the creativity ahead of them, with Ian Wright and Teddy Sheringham in attack. Sheringham had become the master of playing off the main striker, and with Alan Shearer out through a long term injury, Arsenal’s Ian Wright had the task of scoring the goals.

Paul Ince was given the captain’s armband. This was the fourth time he’d skippered the side, with the first time coming in that fateful “Yanks v Planks” match in the summer of ’93. Hoddle had chosen David Seaman for his captain in the previous qualifier against Moldova, but on the night before the match he gave Ince the good news and it another masterstroke as the midfielder, then with Liverpool, played the game of his life earning the Man-of-The-Match award.

Ince had a good chance in the first half when Sheringham nodded a long ball back but his volley was straight at Peruzzi. Sheringham was again involved as he played a one-two with Beckham whose side-foot shot went just over. England had a good amount of possession in the first half, knocking the ball around confidently. But in the second half they had to spend a lot of time defending, and they did with great success.

Ince received a cut to his head in the first half, which required stitches at half-time but as the game went on blood poured from the bandage and oozed down his shirt. It was the stuff of legend as the battle-scarred gladiator repelled the foreigners. There was a scary moment went Del Piero, a second half substitute for Zola, threw himself to the ground in the area but fortunately the referee saw it for what it was and booked him. Shortly after England had a man advantage when De Livio received his second yellow card for a lunge on Sol Campbell which would’ve earned him a straight red. Things were definitely going England’s way.

Then with just minutes remaining, a long ball over the defence had Ian Wright battling to get to the ball first with Cannavaro. As the ball bounced the Italian slipped and Wright then clipped it past the keeper but was down by the bye-line. He controlled the ball and from a tight angle tried to score, but agonisingly he hit the post and the chance had gone. Had he scored there wouldn’t have been enough time for Italy to score twice.

The Italians went straight down the other end and Del Piero crossed to Vieiri in the area but his header went wide. It was the home side’s best chance and a game which had been tightly contested seemed to explode in the final minutes. The referee then blew the whistle to signal great celebrations in the England camp. It was one of the best away performances from an England side.

ITALY   (0)   0

ENGLAND   (0)   0

ITALY: Peruzzi; Nesta, Cannavaro, Costacurta, Maldini [Benarrivo]; di Livio, Albertini, D Baggio; Zola [Del Piero], Vieri, F Inzaghi [Chiesa]

ENGLAND: Seaman (Arsenal); Campbell (Tottenham), Adams (Arsenal), Southgate (Aston Villa), Le Saux (Chelsea); Beckham (Man Utd), Ince (Liverpool), Batty (Newcastle), Gascoigne (Rangers) [Butt (Man Utd)]; Wright (Arsenal), Sheringham (Man Utd)

2012, Wankdorf Stadion, Berne. 15th August 2012

After their disappointing exit on penalties at the Quarter-Finals stage of Euro 2012, England took on Italy in a friendly in Berne, Switerland two months later. Both sides experimented with Roy Hodgson handing out five new caps.

The Premier League campaign hadn’t started by the time the game was played in front of a half-empty stadium, but England’s result was a good boost after their latest setback.

As with Revie in 1976, England used a keeper in each half with Jack Butland getting the nod for the first half. Italy had a corner on the right fifteen minutes into the game, which Diamanti took and Daniele De Rossi headed in. But England levelled on twenty seven minutes when Phil Jagielka scored his first goal for his country when he converted a corner.

Both managers used six substitutes which made for a slightly disjointed second half, but England won the game when Jermaine Defoe hit a wonderful strike from the far right had corner of the area, which flew past Sirigu and a well earned victory

ENGLAND   (1)   2   (Jagielka 27, Defoe 79)

ITALY   (1)   1   (De Rossi 15)

ENGLAND: Butland (Birmingham) [Ruddy (Norwich)]; Walker (Tottenham), Jagielka (Everton) [Lescott (Man City)], Cahill (Chelsea), Baines (Everton) [Bertrand (Chelsea)]; Johnson (Man City), Carrick (Man Utd), Lampard (Chelsea) [Livermore (Tottenham)], Cleverley (Man Utd), Young (Man Utd) [Milner (Man City)]; Carroll (Liverpool) [Defoe (Tottenham)]

ITALY: Sirigu; Ogbonna, Astori, Abate [Schelotto], Balzaretti [Peluso]; El Shaarawy [Gabbiadini], Aquilani [Poli], De Rossi, Destro [Fabbrini]; Nocerino, Diamanti [Verratti]

About the Author

Pete Spencer
Just turned 50. Been Supporting Liverpool since 1976 (Paisley's first title). Write a lot about football from days gone by. There's so much available online about football today and over the past twenty years but incidents from the past often get forgotten