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England waiting for Nations League lift-off after Italy stalemate


Wolverhampton (United Kingdom) (AFP) – England remain winless three games into their Nations League campaign after a 0-0 draw against Italy in front of a sparse crowd in Wolverhampton on Saturday.

A rematch of last year’s Euro 2020 final took place in front of just 3,000 school children as England served a one-match behind closed doors punishment for the chaos that ensued that night at Wembley last July.

Since beating the Three Lions on penalties to become champions of Europe, things have gone wrong for Roberto Mancini’s men as they missed out on a second consecutive World Cup.

However, a youthful Azzurri side tops Group A3 with five points from three games.

England remain bottom with two points, behind Hungary and Germany, who drew 1-1 in Budapest.

Gareth Southgate labelled the sanction of playing in front of an almost empty stadium an “embarrassment”.

England were punished after ticketless supporters stormed the gates at the Wembley in the hope of seeing their nation end a 55-year wait to win a major tournament.

Instead, it was more pain from the penalty spot as the Azzurri were victorious in a shootout after a 1-1 draw.

There was no such drama 11 months on in another clash that will raise questions over the physical burden put upon players at the end of a draining season.

Mancini named an experimental line-up with only two survivors from the 11 that started the Euro final.

Southgate also took the opportunity to rotate the side that started a 1-1 draw in Germany on Tuesday.

Harry Kane was left on the bench as Tammy Abraham was given the chance to shine against the country where he plays his club football for Roma, among six changes.

When the sides last met, England struck within the first two minutes and nearly got off to a flying start again when Mason Mount crashed a shot off the bar from Raheem Sterling’s perfectly-weighted pass.

After a slow start, the inexperienced Italians found their feet and had the better of the chances before the break.

Aaron Ramsdale spread himself to produce a stunning save on just his second England start to deny Sandro Tonali a first international goal.

The Arsenal goalkeeper then tipped over Manuel Locatelli’s deflected effort with the last action of the first half.

England upped the tempo after the break and should have claimed three points to kick-start their Nations League campaign when Sterling somehow spooned over Reece James’ cross from point-blank range.

Sterling also fired into the arms of Gianluigi Donnarumma before Southgate unloaded his bench with the introduction of Kane, Jarrod Bowen and Bukayo Saka.

Kane had one opportunity to further close on Wayne Rooney’s record of 53 goals but blazed over as both sides had to settle for a point.

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