Gareth Southgate faced mounting questions as toothless England look to continue their struggles ahead of the World Cup


England suffered relegation from the Nations League after a 1-0 loss to Italy, but Gareth Southgate’s concerns over a potentially tougher road to the next European Championship are his team’s poor form leading into the World Cup and faltering national team support. even England’s traveling supporters.

Giacomo Raspadori’s brilliant 68th-minute strike at the San Siro condemned England to a fifth game without a win – their worst run under Southgate since 2014 – and they have just one game left to arrest the slump before Iran await their opener. Qatar on November 21.

After England’s last game – a wretched 4-0 loss to Hungary at Molineux – Southgate was booed and laughed at by the casual home support and booed by Milan’s away fans as he went to applaud them at the final whistle.

A scrappy first half with no chances at either end made it hard to believe these teams were battling it out in a European Championship final just 14 months ago, but Italy grew into the game while England faded and the hosts should have won more comfortably after that. wind of late opportunities.

It’s a shame Roberto Mancini’s side won’t be in Qatar, although they have the excuse of a hangover from winning the Euros and being a side in the transition period.

It will be easier for Southgate to identify England’s shortcomings and there will now be real pressure on the manager to deliver in Monday’s Nations League group final against Germany at Wembley.

At the end of the opening 45 minutes, England went 400 minutes without a goal, suggesting their failings at the June camp run deeper than Southgate suggested in his pre-match press conference.

The England manager took the opportunity to claim he knew the reasons behind his side’s summer struggles, which saw them go four games without a win and a goal from their opening game, culminating in defeat at Molineux.

He also claimed he had compromised his beliefs during the run, and England’s initial approach marked a return to something more classic Southgate: a solid defensive unit anchored by a back three where speedy forwards looked for counter-attacks and opportunities. set pieces.

The manager’s critics believe that this approach is simply not enough given the talent at his disposal; that he is too safe, too cautious.

And there was little counterargument here. England are clearly playing far worse than the sum of their shining parts at the moment, with Southgate unable to maximize the talents of Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling, who have all been quiet.

The positives were limited to the rare occasions when Phil Foden or Jude Bellingham were able to get on the ball and especially when they combined to briefly give the visitors the impression they could create meaningful chances, but those moments were few and far between.

Overall it was solid, with Kane providing short shrift with Italy’s back three and largely reduced to a hopeful strike. With the England captain already seeing Italy in the lead, Gianluigi Donnarumma made a solid double save from his angled shots.

The exciting-looking wing-back pair of Reece James and Saka, who was named England’s pre-match player of the year, didn’t trouble Italy at all in the final third, while Declan Rice and Bellingham left too much space in midfield. Italian pass-masters to act.

Even England’s defence, solid until Raspadori brilliantly created space in the box and curled into the side netting, fell apart in the final 20 minutes.

Under-pressure Harry Maguire – who was beaten twice by Italy’s forwards in the opening five minutes but Nick Pope managed to save twice – looked predictably short of confidence, while Eric Dier looked assured early on in his first game in two years but was dragged. out of position, if only once, when Italy pushed forward late on.

In the end, the biggest plus for England was that the scoreline wasn’t more disastrous as the Azzurri threatened to extend their lead, with Frederico Dimarco going closest to a second when his cross came back off the post.

England could now face Georgia and Kazakhstan in the next iteration of the Nations League and be the best opposition to qualify for Euro 2024.

Indeed, it probably won’t matter much, and perhaps England’s current form will too, provided they deliver in Qatar, as they have in the last two major tournaments under Southgate.

Still, the result in Milan leaves Southgate with plenty of questions all over the pitch and no time to find the answers.