SPORT / MISCELLANY
England held by Italy
Gareth Southgate blames lack of sharpness
Published: Jun 12, 2022 07:54 PM
Giovanni di Lorenzo (left) of Italy and Raheem Sterling of England battle for the ball on June 11, 2022 in Wolverhampton, England. Photo: VCG

Giovanni di Lorenzo (left) of Italy and Raheem Sterling of England battle for the ball on June 11, 2022 in Wolverhampton, England. Photo: VCG

England are bottom of their UEFA Nations League group without a win after drawing 0-0 with Italy in a repeat of the Euro 2020 final on Saturday, while Germany settled for a point in a 1-1 stalemate in Hungary.

The meeting in Wolverhampton between Gareth Southgate's side and the European champions was played before just 3,000 people, largely school-children, as a punishment for the incidents that marred the Euro 2020 final between the same nations at Wembley last year.

UEFA rules say a match ordered to be played behind closed doors can still be attended by children accompanied by an adult, as happened last weekend when Hungary beat England in Budapest.

England followed that reverse by drawing 1-1 in Germany and another draw at Molineux leaves them bottom of League A, Group 3 with just two points from three outings before they host Hungary at the same venue on Tuesday in their final game of a long campaign.

Mason Mount hit the bar early on for England, while Aaron Ramsdale produced a fine save to deny Sandro Tonali for an Italy side featuring just two starters who also lined up in the European Championship final.

England manager Gareth Southgate blamed a run of three games without a win to start their Nations League campaign on a lack of sharpness in front of goal.

Southgate labelled that situation as an "embarrassment" for the country and believed the lack of atmosphere played a part in another Nations League clash lacking verve at the end of an exhausting season.

England's only goal in the last three games came from Harry Kane's late penalty to salvage a 1-1 draw away to Germany on Tuesday.

"We had two or three really good chances we need to score, but just lacked that sharpness in front of goal," said Southgate.

"You can see when you are pushing like we were in the second half, you don't have any crowd to help you or put the opposition under any pressure."

Roberto Mancini's Italy are rebuilding after failing to qualify for the World Cup and are top of the group after Hungary and Germany cancelled each other out in Budapest.

Zsolt Nagy gave Hungary an early lead, smashing in after Manuel Neuer had palmed out a Rolland Salai header.

However, Germany needed just three minutes to draw level as Borussia Moenchengladbach's Jonas Hofmann latched onto a long ball forward and rounded the goalkeeper before slotting in.

"I said beforehand that this was the hardest game you could have after England," Germany coach Hansi Flick told RTL after his side's third consecutive 1-1 draw.

"But we are in a development process. We have to see that we learn the lessons from this game."

Depay misses late penalty

The Netherlands are top of League A, Group 4 after coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Poland in Rotterdam, but they could have claimed a third win in as many games had Memphis Depay not squandered a late penalty.

English-born fullback Matty Cash gave Poland an 18th-minute lead with a fine low strike, and the visitors doubled their advantage five minutes after halftime as Przemyslaw Frankowski squared for Piotr Zielinski to finish.

Yet the home side pulled one back almost immediately when Daley Blind's cross from the left was swept in by Davy Klaassen, and they were level by the 54th minute as Denzel Dumfries made it 2-2.

They could have won it in stoppage time when Cash was penalised in the box, but Barcelona forward Depay saw his spot kick come back off the post. 

Meanwhile Brennan Johnson - a star for Nottingham Forest as they won promotion to the Premier League this season - came off the bench to score a late leveller as Wales drew 1-1 with Belgium in Cardiff.

Ireland hammer Scotland

Youri Tielemans gave Belgium the lead early in the second half in Cardiff, but Wales earned their first point of the Nations League campaign.

Their attention had previously been on their decisive World Cup qualifying playoff against Ukraine, which they won 1-0 last weekend to qualify for the global showpiece for the first time since 1958.

In League B, the Republic of Ireland got their first win in Group 1 in emphatic fashion, beating hapless Scotland 3-0 in Dublin.

Alan Browne and Troy Parrott netted in the first half for Ireland before Michael Obafemi smashed in an emphatic third early in the second half.

In the same group, Ukraine got their second win in as many games since losing to Wales, as they beat Armenia 3-0 in a match played in the Polish city of Lodz.