Gareth Southgate says it is “embarrassing” for England to play Italy behind closed doors in the Nations League on Saturday.
The Football Association has been handed a two-game ban, one of which has been suspended, following the behavior of fans ahead of Wembley’s defeat by Italy in the Euro 2020 final last summer.
Around 3,000 people will be in attendance at the Molineux this weekend, mostly under-14s who, under UEFA rules, have free entry to games that are being played behind closed doors.
England vs Italy: How to follow
Follow England v Italy on Saturday in our dedicated live blog on Sky Sports digital platforms. Kick-off at Molineux is 7.45 p.m
“If it’s embarrassing, it’s for England as a country,” manager Southgate said.
“A lot of the people who caused the problems were football fans.
“We talked about it enough, we talked about it after the final, and when the first penalty was imposed, all I can say is that the vast majority of our fans who traveled to Germany on Tuesday behaved brilliantly, a big one Thank you to them because maybe people thought otherwise, but there was a large majority that was a credit.
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Southgate hints at changes
Despite having four Nations League games to play at the end of a long season, Southgate insists any of his fit players are capable of playing against Italy but hinted at making changes from the 1-1 draw in Munich .
“There’s nobody we can’t use,” he said.
“We have to think about some things that we have to see, also the freshness of the team. I think this is a good game for some of the other players, it’s a top level game and a good sign to show confidence in the players that go into these games.
“I think if we only give players certain types of games, you don’t learn enough about them and they don’t learn enough about the tactical challenge.”
Phil Foden, who was recently named PFA Young Player of the Year, trained at St George’s Park on Friday but remains in doubt as he recovers from the coronavirus. Kalvin Phillips has been training outside the group after suffering a knee injury in Germany.
James Ward-Prowse is about to start against Italy after joining coach Southgate at the pre-match press conference.
The Southampton captain said: “The manager has previously highlighted that he sees certain types of players in different types of games and if that opportunity arises then hopefully it will be a good opportunity for me to show what I can against a high opponent can do. This will be a good opportunity, hopefully to snag a few minutes.
“Everyone here is in the squad because they perform well for their club – and you can see that in training. The level is so, so high and missing out on the EM squad was a big hurdle for me.
“I see this now as a new challenge, a new opportunity and I think that gave me a little bit more encouragement with this World Cup announcement that I want to be there, I want to be part of this fantastic group and hopefully repeat that success we’ve had.”
Southgate: Grealish, a great character
Jack Grealish has started just three of England’s last 11 competitive games and is fast becoming a substitute under Southgate – but does the Manchester City striker deserve a place in the starting XI?
The Three Lions struggled for rhythm in the final third of the tie with Germany until Grealish forced a late equalizer down the left flank with 20 minutes to go.
Southgate, who challenged Grealish after the game to hone his tactical skills if he is to become a regular starter at international level, on Friday praised the 26-year-old’s mentality and insisted he loves working with him.
“It’s important for all of our players to understand how we want to play,” said Southgate.
“We structure them and prepare them for the games, but in that, with their own talents and their own, we want them to come out. That makes the difference in the games.
“Jack had a fabulous impact on the game when he came on. I know he enjoys his football with us but he also enjoys his football at his club so I think it’s important to say that. He learned a lot while he was there.” a team that won the Premier League, which is hugely important to him.
“He’s a player we’re happy to work with. He’s got a great mentality, a great character and I think he’s a really good guy to have in the group. He has this joy of having a football at his feet, which adds so much when you see players training every day.”
England vs Italy – Opta Stats
- This is the first meeting between England and Italy since last July’s EURO 2020 final. The game ended 1-1 before the Italians won 3-2 on penalties.
- Italy have lost just two of their last 15 games against England in all competitions (W7 L6), 2-0 in June 1997 and 2-1 in August 2012, both in friendlies. They have lost just once in nine competitive matches (W5 L3), a 2-0 defeat in a World Cup qualifier in November 1977.
- This is only England’s fifth international match at Molineux, home of Wolverhampton Wanderers, the other four having taken place between 1891 and 1956. The last game in 1956 they won 5-2 against Denmark, with Tommy Taylor scoring a hat trick and Duncan Edwards scoring twice.
- England have won just one of their last five UEFA Nations League (U1 N3) games, failing to score on three occasions. Meanwhile, Italy have lost just one of their 12 UEFA Nations League group stage games (W5 D6).
- England have not won their last two games (U1 L1), only once before having not won on three occasions under Gareth Southgate, in a three-game losing streak between July and September 2018.