With players set to return to their clubs, we look back at England’s results from the international break.
The second international break of the 2023/24 season is now over, and domestic football is set to return this weekend with the resumption of English Premier League soccer games.
Two stand out matches from this weekend will see Liverpool face Everton in the Merseyside Derby on Saturday afternoon before Chelsea and Arsenal go head to head in a London Derby in the evening kick-off.
The October international break was highly successful for England. Over the last week, they have faced Australia in a friendly before going head to head with Italy in a crucial EURO 2024 Qualifying match under the arch at the iconic Wembley Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The England squad for these matches was announced by Manager Gareth Southgate on 5th October, just over a week before the Three Lions were due to face Australia in the capital. The players called up by Southgate for this international break were as follows:
Defenders: Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marc Guéhi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United) & Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City) & Declan Rice (Arsenal)
Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham Hotspur), Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) & Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).
Unfortunately, Bukayo Saka had to withdraw from the squad due to an injury a few days before the Australia game.
Speaking of the game against Graham Arnold’s Australia, it was friendly which saw some players who do not regularly start for England get a chance to impress Gareth Southgate. The rotated line-up included the likes of Levi Colwill, Fikayo Tomori, Jarrod Bowen, Lewis Dunk and Ollie Watkins.
England were in control of the match against Arnold’s side, having more possession with 67%, although Australia did have more shots on target with 4 as opposed to the home team’s 3. In an even and competitive contest, Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins would get the winning goal early in the second half when he forced the ball home from close range (57’). It was ex-Villa teammate Jack Grealish who was credited with the assist for the goal.
Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions were already in a good mood, and this victory further added to England’s momentum.
On Tuesday night, the second and final match of the October international break saw Wembley host a crucial EURO 2024 Qualifier between England and Italy. Southgate’s side knew that a win against the Azzurri would guarantee their place at the Euros in 2024, which is to be hosted by Germany.
Marcus Rashford had the first significant chance of the game, but his effort from range missed the target by the narrowest of margins (12’). This miss was to be ruthlessly punished by Italy a few moments later when ex-West Ham United and current Atalanta forward Gianluca Scamacca found the net from very close range to give Luciano Spalletti’s side an early advantage (15’).
Then, with almost half an hour of the game having elapsed, Jude Bellingham came agonisingly close to restoring parity after his shot from close range was saved well by Paris Saint-Germain Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (27’).
England would not regret this miss for long, and they were given an excellent chance to score the equaliser when they were awarded a penalty. Bellingham was fouled by Giovanni Di Lorenzo when the Real Madrid midfielder was making a powerful run into the Italian penalty area. Harry Kane, his country’s leading all-time goal scorer, was clinical from the spot, finding the top corner of the net to restore parity at one apiece (32’).
Marcus Rashford did have a chance to give England the lead, but he also saw an effort on goal saved well by Donnarumma (44’). Spurs full-back Destiny Udogie did force Jordan Pickford into an excellent save (45+2’).
England finally found the goal to give themselves the lead early on in the second half. A fantastic pass from Bellingham into Marcus Rashford’s feet saw the Manchester United forward unleash a powerful effort into the bottom right corner from just inside the penalty area (57’) to make it 2-1 to Gareth Southgate’s side at Wembley.
Rashford and Foden both had chances to extend England’s advantage, but it was Harry Kane who put the game beyond doubt with less than twenty minutes to go when he showed extraordinary strength and determination to beat several of Italy’s defenders before finding the bottom right corner with a powerful effort that gave Gianluigi Donnarumma no chance (77’).
Italy did have a few chances to pull a goal back in the closing stages of the contest, but they were ultimately unable to do so, and England were able to come away with what was a deserved 3 – 1 victory at Wembley.
England’s Qualification for the 2024 European Championships in Germany was now secured with two matches remaining.
England edged possession with 51% compared to Italy’s 49%. Gareth Southgate’s side also had more efforts on goal with 6, as opposed to the Azzurri’s 4.
Following the game, England Manager Gareth Southgate said (via the England Website): “The players are incredible to work with, I have to say. They are so hungry, so eager to learn, so together, and you saw that in the performance tonight.
“We talked before the game about mentality being the biggest thing in those big matches and maybe you have to come through setbacks, but you have to be relentless, and I thought the performance was relentless tonight.”
There were some great performances on the night, particularly from Jude Bellingham, who put in a man of the match performance. The former Birmingham City and current Real Madrid midfielder got an assist for Rashford’s goal whilst also winning the penalty that led to the crucial equaliser.
England’s final two EURO 2024 Qualifiers are against Malta at Wembley on 17th November before facing North Macedonia away from home on 20th November 2023.
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