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England’s Southgate says playing in near-empty stadium is ’embarrassing’


London (AFP) – Gareth Southgate said on Friday it is an “embarrassment” that his England side have to face Italy in front of a tiny crowd at Molineux this weekend as punishment for fan violence at the Euro 2020 final.

England were given a two-match stadium ban, with one game suspended, after ticketless supporters fought their way into Wembley to witness their defeat to Italy on penalties last year.

As a result of the disorder, there will be only around 3,000 fans in attendance to watch the re-match against Italy in the Nations League on Saturday.

The crowd will largely be made up of children aged under 14 as, under UEFA rules, they are allowed free admission to fixtures played behind closed doors.

“If it is an embarrassment, it is for England as a country,” Southgate said.

“A lot of the people that caused the problems I’m not certain were football fans. We spoke enough about it, we spoke about it after the final and when the punishment was first given.

“What I will say is the vast majority of our fans who travelled to Germany (for this week’s 1-1 draw) behaved brilliantly.

“A big thank you to them because maybe people were thinking something different but there were a huge majority who were a credit.”

England are halfway through a series of four Nations League group fixtures at the end of a draining season.

They were beaten 1-0 in Hungary before drawing 1-1 in Germany on Tuesday thanks to Harry Kane’s late penalty.

Southgate said all of his players were fit but hinted changes were likely against Roberto Mancini’s team.

“I think this is a good game for some of the other players to come into,” he said. 

“It is a top-level game and is a good sign to show trust towards the players going into these games.

“I think if we only give players certain types of matches, you don’t find out enough about them and they don’t find out enough about the tactical challenge.”

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