An uninspiring England side failed to deal with a dominant Italian team and the individual talents of Verratti and Insigne. Despite the one-goal margin, England never looked like coming close to taking much from the game and will now require results against Israel and Norway in their remaining group games. Here are five quick observations…
England (4-2-3-1): Butland; Clyne, Caulker, Dawson, Robinson; Henderson, Lowe; Redmond, Shelvey, Sordell; Wickham
Italy (4-4-2): Bardi; Donati, Bianchetti, Caldirola, Biraghi; Florenzi, Marrone, Verratti, Insigne; Borini, Immobile
Pearce’s team selection
England’s Stuart Pearce decided to start Jason Lowe in central midfield ahead of the more tenacious Nathaniel Chalobah or the more creative Josh McEachran. In the 90 minutes Lowe offered England very little. His passing accuracy was much better than any of his team mates but this was because he kept his use of the ball simple, with sideways 5 and 10 yard passes. Defensively he only contributed one tackle and he didn’t work particularly harder than anybody else. His selection was not justified and when Chalobah replaced Marvin Sordell on 67 minutes, England became a 4-5-1 with Chalobah having a greater impact in the centre of midfield.
Verratti the dictator
Marco Verratti (number 4 in the diagram) was the key player in the first half and he manage to single-handedly dictate the tempo of the match, despite England having an extra man in midfield. When he came short, often standing on his own 18 yard box, Lowe would follow him, but the Italian still insisted on receiving the ball. When the play was in the middle third of the pitch he found space superbly by hovering deep, close to his centre halves allowing his midfield partner Luca Marrone (8) to patrol further ahead. England didn’t know how to deal with Verratti and he finished with 87% passing accuracy from 120 passes.
England were without Wilfried Zaha and Henri Lansbury who both had niggles, plus Danny Rose and Thomas Ince who were facing one game suspensions, and all of whom could have started in a wide position. Because of the high number of absentees Nathan Redmond started his first game at this level on the left wing with Sordell on the other side. Sordell offered very little, even after switching to the left flank after 20 minutes, but Redmond was England’s best attacking threat – albeit this only happened in flashes rather than for an extended amount of time. In his 90 minutes, Redmond finished with a decent return of three shots and four successful dribbles.
Italy lack a goal threat
Neither one of Italy’s strikers looked like they had a genuine goal threat but their link-up play and movement did look decent. Liverpool’s Fabio Borini tended to stay further up the pitch, looking to stretch the play by darting in behind the England defensive line and getting onto diagonal through balls. He tended to drift towards the right wing channel in between the less pacey Craig Dawson and Jack Robinson at left back. Strike partner Ciro Immobile was the deeper of the two and showed a few decent touches when he held up the ball and offloaded it to a midfielder running forward.
Insigne to the rescue
Italy were a fairly standard 4-4-2 formation and over the 90 minutes their best player was left midfielder Lorenzo Insigne. He naturally looking to cut inside from the left wing and his pace and direct dribbling caused England all sorts of problems with nobody sure of who was supposed to be marking him. On 79 minutes Nathaniel Clyne cynically brought down substitute Manolo Gabbiadini on the edge of the box, although there were shouts for a penalty, and from the resulting free kick Insigne deservedly scored to give Italy an impressive victory.
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