Italy must start all over again under Roberto Mancini on return to England for Nations League encounter

Italy must start all over again under Roberto Mancini on return to England for Nations League encounter

Eleven months after Italy’s Euro 2020 final penalty shootout victory over England at Wembley, Roberto Mancini prepares his side to face the Three Lions again but the European champions have experienced a chastening year, writes Ben Grounds

The morning after Gareth Southgate’s bid to end England’s 55-year wait for a major trophy ended in the familiar agony of defeat, Italian daily publication Tuttosport ran the headline: “Siamo Solo Noi”.

“Only us left now”. The last team standing.

But the kings of the old continent will not be at the World Cup. They are perhaps the only noticeable absence, left in Europe for this winter’s showpiece event.

England’s loss was felt deeply after impressing throughout the knockout stage last summer, but Italy’s joy has shifted to despair ahead of the reunion in the UEFA Nations League at Molineux on Saturday.

A victory for England this time around wouldn’t make up for the crushing disappointment of a shootout defeat on home soil in a major final, but it would certainly be welcomed by Southgate after the lingering criticism of his cautious approach bubbled back to the surface again this week.

Such a familiar gripe has lurked in the shadows under Southgate – should he play a back three? Should he start Jack Grealish? But these valid observations would certainly be deemed as minor hostilities in the context of their opponent’s alarming plight this weekend.

Italy have made the better start to this nascent Nations League campaign, collecting four points from their two games to lead Group A3 while England sit bottom with just a point from their two matches.

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