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England qualify for Euro 2024 after beating Italy at Wembley – 5 talking points

ENGLAND 3-1 ITALY: Harry Kane scored twice as Gareth Southgate’s side came from behind to get revenge for defeat in the Euro 2020 final and qualify for Euro 2024 at Wembley

England have qualified for Euro 2024 with two games to spare after coming from behind to beat Italy at Wembley.

The Three Lions went into the game knowing that they would book their place in Germany next summer if they avoided defeat. And two goals from Harry Kane and one from Marcus Rashford ensured they progressed from Group C having taken 16 points from their opening six games. As well as hosts Germany, they have joined Spain, Scotland, Belgium, Portugal, France, Turkey and Austria in qualifying for the tournament.

Playing against Italy inside the same stadium they lost the final of Euro 2020 on penalties, it looked like it might be another disappointing occasion when Gianluca Scamacca turned in from close range for the visitors. But Kane equalised from the penalty spot after the outstanding Jude Bellingham was brought down by Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Rashford rifled in on the counter-attack to turn things around.

Kane then added a solo third thanks to some tenacity and some shocking Italian defending to make sure of the comeback and England’s place in Germany next summer. Here are the talking points from Mirror Football.

1. Rusty defence

Gianluca Scamacca was unmarked when he opened the scoring for Italy ( Image: Channel 4)

This was a very familiar England team, with eight of the starting XI having played in the Euro 2020 final against Italy. After the experimental line-up in the Australia friendly, it was back to tried and tested here – and that made the opening goal even more disappointing.

From an Italian perspective it was a thing of beauty, starting with Gianluigi Donnarumma’s nonchalant turn on Harry Kane and ending with Scamacca’s tap-in. But from an English one it was evidence of a rustiness stemming from club football. Kalvin Phillips and Harry Maguire don’t play regularly for their sides. John Stones is on the come-back from injury. All three were nowhere to be seen when Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s low cross arrived at Scamacca’s feet in the six-yard box.

2. Bellingham provides the spark

Jude Bellingham won England’s penalty ( Image: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

It feels like stating the obvious now, but it bears repeating: Bellingham is one of the best players in the world at the age of 20. England had looked pedestrian for large parts of the first half and the Wembley crowd were not shy in letting them know as they passed from side to side.

Suddenly, with a burst of speed and a one-two with Kane, Bellingham changed everything. He sped into the box and was too fast for Di Lorenzo. After an unnecessarily long VAR check, Kane did the rest. He scored his 60th goal for England in his 87th game, but there can be no doubts who the star of this team is now. Bellingham is such a well-rounded and supremely confident player and his emergence is a true blessing for Southgate amid the undiminishing criticism of his conservative style and team selection.

3. Rashford’s redemption

Marcus Rashford scored England’s second goal on the counter-attack ( Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Playing alongside Bellingham is a dream for any player and he is making all his team-mates better. Rashford knows the feeling better than most having been supplied with one of the most impressive assists you are likely to see.

Bellingham slid in on the edge of his own box to win back possession. Bellingham flicked the ball over an onrushing Italian and charged up the pitch on a one-man counter-attack. It was he who supplied Rashford with the ball. And not content with just that, he cleared the space in the area by dragging his marker out the way with a diagonal run.

Rashford came into this game with one goal in 13 games for club and country this season. But he accepted the opportunity with glee, smashing past Donnarumma for what was his eighth goal in his last nine England starts. Southgate has been criticised for sticking with his favourites, but his faith in Rashford was repaid here.

4. Kane leads the charge

Harry Kane scored twice ( Image: James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

If it was Bellingham who sparked the comeback, it was Kane who sustained it. The England captain is a reliable goal machine, who now has 61 for his country. He is already clear of Wayne Rooney and Bobby Charlton and is now into a league of his own for the Three Lions.

His penalty was completely assured, sending Donnarumma the wrong way, and his second was typical of his determination and calmness in front of goal; he seized on the error at the back from a simple long ball by Marc Guehi and streaked clear to beat the Italy goalkeeper once more.

With Bellingham playing behind Kane, England have two of Europe’s very best at their disposal. And that gives them a great chance of bringing home the trophy at Euro 2024.

5. If it ain’t broke…

Gareth Southgate has kept the faith with his selections ( Image: Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

Mason MountLuke Shaw and Raheem Sterling were the only players from England’s starting XI at Wembley on July 11, 2021, not still in Gareth Southgate’s first-choice line-up on Tuesday night. By contrast, Italy’s team contained just three of the same players, in Donnarumma, Di Lorenzo and Nicolo Barella.

Southgate has been unflinchingly loyal to his players, picking Phillips and Maguire despite their struggles at club level. He has continued to pick Kieran Trippier at left-back and stuck by Jordan Pickford when others might have changed tack.

It has worked well in Euro 2024 qualifying and it means he can now afford to look at alternatives in the upcoming games against Malta and North Macedonia. Whether it will work in Germany next summer is the real question.

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