Updated:Mar 24, 2023 6:23 pm
After the horrific penalty miss in the World Cup Quater Final against France, Harry Kane’s record-breaking goal helps England to a 1-2 victory over Italy in their first Euro 2024 qualifier.
Four months after exiting Qatar 2022, it was an opportunity for Gareth Southgate’s side to prove that they were capable of going toe-to-toe with the best teams in the world. It was also a chance for England’s Captain to become their greatest-ever goalscorer.
Heading into the game, England had not beaten Italy in Italy since 1961, and the last time they beat them was in a friendly at Bern, Switzerland in 2012 by 2 goals to 1 under Roy Hodgson.
Last night’s game in Naples was also England’s first game after Qatar 2022, and Gareth Southgate’s side was determined to start off their road to Germany with a victory against the European Champions, who were looking to put the disappointment of not qualifying for last year’s World Cup behind them.
The Three Lions went with almost the same side that started the game against France, with Kalvin Phillips and Jack Grealish being preferred to Phil Foden and Jordon Henderson.
And it was a great start for the visitors, particularly when Declan Rice lashed the ball in from close range, after some scrappy defending by Italy during Bukayo Saka’s corner.Embed from Getty Images
Jude Bellingham was inches away from getting onto Kane’s low cross as an attempt to make 2-0.Embed from Getty Images
And Kalvin Phillips’s shot flew agonizingly past the post.Embed from Getty Images
England was then awarded a penalty in the 41st minute when Kane’s header from another Saka corner struck the arm of Giovanni DI Lorenzo. This was the moment when Kane secured his status as one of England’s modern greats, surpassing Wayne Rooney’s 53 goals. This also brought a sigh of relief to the England Captain, as the memory of the missed penalty against France was now evaporated.
He also achieves this feat in 81 caps, which is 39 less than the former Everton, Manchester United, and Derby County striker.
Jack Grealish had a glorious chance from a superb England counter-attack to make it 3-0, but he totally mis-hit his shot, which ended up going past the far post.Embed from Getty Images
Italy was by far the better team in the 2nd half, especially when Mateo Retegui pulled one back for the hosts in the 56th minute.Embed from Getty Images
And pressure began to mount on England as Luke Shaw saw a second yellow card for his challenge on Retegui, with 12 minutes plus stoppage time to the player.Embed from Getty Images
This was a bit of a surprise to Southgate, as England had not had a player sent off since October 2020, when Harry Maguire was sent off in a friendly against Denmark.
But despite being reduced to 10 men, the Three Lions managed to hold on to their lead and secure a historic moment in Italy.
In the post-match interview, Southgate lauded his captain’s performance and summed up his character as a person.
“His overall performance tonight was outstanding,” “I thought he really dominated the centre-backs and his link play was really good.”You could see right from the beginning of the game he was really on it. “To break the record in the way that he did, given the recent history, is an indication of his strength of character and mentality.”Gareth Southgate: England Football
And he’s absolutely right, if you look back at Marcus Rashford’s penalty miss in the Euro 2020 final, many people thought that it would leave a mark on the rest of his career, especially after the racial abuse that he, Saka, and Jadon Sancho receive online from the public. But to put in a good performance in a losing cause against France shows how much these players cherish playing for England, unlike previous generations i.e Gerrard, Lampard, and Scholes etc, who were more comfortable performing for their clubs, rather than their country.
England’s next game will be against Ukraine on Sunday at Wembley, and Southgate’s Lions will be keen to make it back-to-back victories to begin their road to Germany 2024.
Is this the first step to European glory for England?
Send us your views on World in Sport