Italy’s experimental young side provided six debuts, but ended in a 2-1 defeat against England. It’s the first time the Three Lions got the better of the Nazionale in 15 years, as they fought back from a Daniele De Rossi opener.
These two nations met six weeks after the Euro 2012 quarter-final, when the Azzurri won on penalties after dominating for 120 minutes. Both Coaches made huge changes for this friendly test in Berne, Switzerland, as only Ashley Young remained from the England side in that QF.
Cesare Prandelli performed experiments by promoting debutants Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia Destro from the Under-21 side, while Davide Astori, Angelo Ogbonna, Alberto Aquilani and Salvatore Sirigu were given a chance to prove themselves. Federico Balzaretti started despite a muscular problem.
The Azzurri were wearing a special edition jersey that was designed to resemble the 1982 kit, commemorating 30 years since that World Cup triumph.
Roy Hodgson lost Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joe Hart and Daniel Sturridge to injury, but welcomed back Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick. Jack Butland became the youngest ever England goalkeeper at the age of 19.
In the opening minute the Azzurri earned a corner that Ogbonna nodded wide, while Destro’s first touch let him down when Daniele De Rossi’s long ball sent him clear.
Alessandro Diamanti’s free kick dipped viciously at the near post to force a tricky save from Butland, but from that Diamanti corner it was De Rossi who got the glancing header to open the scoring. The defending from England left a lot to be desired, as the Roma midfielder easily out-jumped Carrick.
Destro also nodded under the bar, but this time Butland was ready to pluck it out of the air. Adam Johnson fired straight at PSG goalkeeper Sirigu from the edge of the box and Destro again ran on to a pass over the top, but Kyle Walker did enough to force his shot wide.
It was another corner that led to England’s equaliser, this time Phil Jagielka’s diving header from seven yards getting in front of Balzaretti.
Lampard’s strike from distance stung Sirigu’s palms, while some unorthodox goalkeeping saw Butland at full stretch to kick Diamanti’s chipped pass away from Destro. A Lampard free kick skimmed the crossbar after a clumsy Astori tackle, then Ignazio Abate blasted across the face of goal after combining with Diamanti.
Prandelli introduced Atalanta’s Federico Peluso for his first cap, replacing the not 100 per cent fit Balzaretti, while Jermain Defoe and John Ruddy came on for England. Replacement goalkeeper Ruddy was called upon immediately to parry a Destro effort with one hand at the near stick after a good turn by the Roma striker.
Destro went on a wonderful mazy run through the England defence, but hesitated when preparing to shoot and it was scrambled clear along with Aquilani’s follow-up. Moments later Antonio Nocerino threaded through for Peluso, but the Atalanta newcomer hit the side-netting from close range.
Marco Verratti and Manolo Gabbiadini made their senior Azzurri debuts. Astori charged down a Defoe shot after wayward header from an England corner. The whistle had already been blown for a push before Gary Cahill’s volley into the net, so it didn’t count. Jake Livermore made his England debut for Lampard and Andrea Poli replaced Aquilani.
There was chaos in the Italy box on 73 minutes when James Milner curled in a free kick that confused Peluso, as only a great Sirigu one-handed save stopped it being an own goal and the rebound was prodded on to the upright from point-blank range by Cahill.
Verratti went so close to scoring on his debut, as a wayward shot turned into an assist for the PSG man’s shot, palmed out from under the bar by Ruddy. From the resulting corner, a Ryan Bertrand goalline clearance denied the Gabbiadini header. This move sparked an England counter-attack and Defoe converted it with a stunning finish, turning round Abate to curl into the far top corner despite Sirigu getting his fingertips to it.
Defoe fired another wide from distance and Italy’s penalty appeals for a Lescott handling offence were waved away. Diego Fabbrini and Ezequiel Schelotto also made their senior Italy bows in the final minutes, though the Atalanta winger was oddly used as a right-back.
Astori risked another own goal after Carrick had got past Peluso at the by-line, a crucial interception to stop Defoe tapping in.
Italy 1-2 England
Scorers: De Rossi 15 (I), Jagielka 27 (E), Defoe 80 (E)
Italy: Sirigu; Abate (Schelotto 86), Ogbonna, Astori, Balzaretti; De Rossi, Nocerino, Aquilani (Poli 68); Diamanti (Verratti 59); Destro (Fabbrini 82), El Shaarawy (Gabbiadini 59)
England: Butland (Ruddy 46); Walker, Cahill, Jagielka (Lescott 61), Baines (Bertrand 77); Johnson, Carrick, Lampard (Livermore 68), A Young (Milner 61); Cleverley; Carroll (Defoe 46)
Ref: Kever (Swi)