After the 2-0 defeat to Argentina, Italy rebounded with intent to correct wrongs against an in form England at Wembley stadium. Italy manager; Di Biagio, whilst not content with the defeat also relented the pessimistic tone and eulogised that, “We must do better than in Manchester but we’re on the right path”
Indeed that sense of optimism was evident in the early exchanges and Italy pushed high up the field, pushing forward the wing backs to outnumber the England defence, thus creating numerous chances and forcing errors from the English back line. However, unfortunately for the Azzurri, the same afflictions arose once more as Immobile and Parolo failed to hit the target to spare English blushes.
Eventually England woke up and started to press forward themselves, eventually creating an opportunity for Vardy to slot past the young Donnarumma in goal, who had largely been quiet for most of the first half. The remainder of the half was relatively even, although the Italian formation continued to cause problems for the English defence. The Italians on their part had neat interchange of play and quick and slick passing which would break down at the final pass more often than not, whilst they pressed with Insigne and Immobile to break in behind England through long balls from Bonucci, Rugani and company in defence.
Although, the first half saw Italy on the front foot and were able to contain England for the most part, the scoreline would lay siege to any notion that all is well with the Italian revival…however these are early days and another 45mins was there to break the English hearts and minds.
The second half started and England probed and largely dominated the early exchanges whilst Italy persisted with long ball searching passes that invariably were overhit. Not the guile and accuracy that one would normally associate with the Italian style…but these are strange times which call for stranger measures…but Di Biagio would counter with pleas for patience as Italy need to grow their wings again.
Whist Jorginho fared reasonably well in centre midfield, the Italians were missing the industry, composure and the ‘eye for a pass’ from the PSG man; Marco Verratti. As the half progressed, Italy were forced into more defensive posturing and Donnarumma made some regulation saves but which did not test. Overall Italy were missing the finished product to their game…not only in finishing in front of goal but also with their final pass either out of defence or moving forward.
Candreva and Immobile were both substituted before reaching the 65th minute and replaced by Chiesa and Belotti in the 56th and 64th minute respectively, however Italy still looked rather dysfunctional and bereft of ideas in the final third, however England continued to display confidence and created more opportunities that should have put the game to bed.
For all of the English industry, Italy did not give up the fight although they were lacking the composure in centre midfield that would control the tempo of the game…oh how they wished that Pirlo could wind back the years! Whilst there was undoubted purpose in the Azzurri game, Di Biagio was missing that pure blue hero to take the fight to any invading Hannibal…Italy remained optimistic but overall were flaccid in their final engagements.
However whilst Insigne had been largely quiet for most of the first half, he managed to become more involved in the second and narrowly missed the top right hand corner of the English goal from a free kick at the edge of the penalty area, then broke free of the defensive lines and fired with a snap half volley shot for inside the left hand side of the penalty area which narrowly missed the right hand post…the game was opening up upon tired legs of both nations.
As the game entered the last 10mins, the Italians began to probe once again with greater purpose and accuracy, then Chiesa weaved his way into the English penalty area and was brought down by Tarkowski somewhat unintentionally as he stood on Chiesa’s foot as a trio of English defenders closed in to nullify the threat. Initially given as a corner, there were few protestations from Italy, however Chiesa made most dramatic effects of his bruised metatarsal. Then the German referee consulted the VAR system, which had been adopted for the game and which confirmed the infringement, thence the penalty was awarded which Napoli star; Insigne converted with a beautiful strike to the bottom left of the goal clearing the outstretched arm of Butland. The Italian fans erupted in jubilant cheers whilst the English would rue the day the VAR was ever invented. Of course on close inspection few could have argument with the decision, although the intent was clearly amiss in the affair.
The German referee made efficient use of the system, whilst the fans in the stadium were left in
the dark…the fans that sat at home or in the pubs were able to clearly see the infringement in the slow motion replay…something that really should be shown in the stadium that would communicate the rationale for the decision more clearly to the watching fans.
As for the Italians, it was an acceptable performance but still nowhere near the standards one would hope for in the era of the forward thinking Di Biagio…however it is progress and they can lay claim to a first striker’s goal since last September, which has been the true indictment of Italy’s impotence in front of goal for some time.
Two friendlies, one loss and one draw…hardly a top team of the FIFA rankings, however these are early days on the road to recovery. With a few more tweaks in the arsenal and the Azzurri becoming more clinical in front of goal, the revival should be complete. However Italy must take stock of their current situation, plan to be composer of the orchestra as opposed to aimlessly plucking away on violin strings and find a front man who has a greater physical presence.
Perhaps if reparations can be made with Balotelli who might ably wear Scipio’s helmet with pride to spearhead Italy’s resurgence, then the Italian’s work in progress…might progress a little quicker. Italy next face France and Holland in the June international friendlies before embarking on the European Nations League fixtures from September onwards…there is much work to do…but all is not lost just yet. Avanti e Forza!