Bloody draws and blown penalties: six classic England v Italy games

Relive half-a-dozen memorable encounters between the Three Lions and the Azzurri before the Euro 2020 final

England 2-0 Italy, November 1977 (World Cup qualifier)

Under Don Revie 12 months earlier, goals from Giancarlo Antognoni and Roberto Bettega had condemned England to a comprehensive 2-0 defeat in Rome in the sides’ first competitive meeting. But with Ron Greenwood in caretaker charge for the return at Wembley after Revie’s surprise departure for the United Arab Emirates in the summer, Kevin Keegan’s header – the favourite goal of his career – and a second from Trevor Brooking sealed victory for England after a strong performance in front of 92,000 supporters in what proved to be the legendary Internazionale defender Giacinto Facchetti’s last match for Italy. Greenwood was rewarded with the job on a permanent basis – a post he held until July 1982. It still was not enough to send England to the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, however, as a 3-0 Italy win against Luxembourg a few weeks later meant they topped the qualifying group on goal difference.

Italy 1-0 England, June 1980 (Euros group stage)

“We thought we had a chance to win it,” Ray Wilkins said. “It all went wrong.” After a disappointing 1-1 draw in their opening match against Belgium in Turin, England knew victory against the hosts would give them a good opportunity to reach the final. The Azzurri had been deprived of the emerging striker Paolo Rossi after he was banned for match-fixing and had drawn their opening match against Spain. In a hard-fought encounter, England struggled to create chances before Marco Tardelli’s winner 11 minutes from time. Keegan almost equalised with an overhead kick in the last minute, only to be denied by a brilliant Dino Zoff save. Despite England’s win over Spain, Italy finished second in the group after a 0-0 draw against Belgium, who were beaten by West Germany in the final.

Italy 2-1 England, July 1990 (World Cup third-place play-off)

It was the match nobody wanted. Three days after a heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat by West Germany, England travelled to Bari to meet a team who had suffered the same fate against Argentina. Peter Shilton was making his record 125th and final appearance in goal two months short of his 41st birthday and was embarrassed by Roberto Baggio for the opening goal before David Platt’s equaliser. On a night also remembered for the suspended Paul Gascoigne joining John Barnes and Chris Waddle in a Mexican wave on the bench, Salvatore Schillaci’s late penalty sealed the Golden Boot for him and third place for his country. At full time, Tony Dorigo swapped shirts with the Italy captain, Giuseppe Bergomi, who then asked to trade shorts and socks. “Yes, but nothing else,” replied the England defender.

England players on the subs bench perform a Mexican Wave during the 1990 World Cup third place playoff. Left to right: Steve Hodge, Terry Butcher, Chris Waddle, John Barnes, Paul Gazza Gascoigne, Steve Bull, Chris Woods, Dave Beasant, Stuart Pearce and Neil Webb.
England players on the subs bench perform a Mexican Wave during the 1990 World Cup third place playoff. Left to right: Steve Hodge, Terry Butcher, Chris Waddle, John Barnes, Paul Gazza Gascoigne, Steve Bull, Chris Woods, Dave Beasant, Stuart Pearce and Neil Webb. Photograph: Simon Bruty/Getty Images

Italy 0-0 England, October 1997 (World Cup qualifier)

The night that inspired the line “And then one night in Rome we were strong – we had grown” in the re-release of Three Lions for the 1998 World Cup. Having lost at Wembley to Italy in February 1997, England had regained some confidence by beating them 2-0 at Le Tournoi in the summer and going on to win the warmup competition that also featured France and Brazil. Needing a draw in the Italian capital to book their place at the finals, it could have been even better for the visitors had Ian Wright’s effort not struck a post, but the image of the blood-stained and bandaged captain, Paul Ince, celebrating with supporters at the final whistle remains one of England’s most famous. “Ian Wright was crying with joy and he made me want to cry too,” said Ince. “I’ve played in cup finals and in big European matches, but this was right up there with anything I’ve achieved – possibly the greatest moment of my career.”

England 0-0 Italy (Italy win on pens), June 2012 (Euros quarter-final)

Andrea Pirlo clips an audacious Panenka penalty past Joe Hart at Euro 2012.
Andrea Pirlo clips an audacious Panenka penalty past Joe Hart at Euro 2012. Photograph: Matthias Schräder/AP

Thrown in at the deep end when taking over from Fabio Capello a month before the first Euros match, Roy Hodgson led England to the quarter-finals as group winners after beating Sweden and Ukraine. Their reward was a tie against Cesare Prandelli’s side in Kyiv, with Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings from his deep-lying playmaker position as England’s midfield largely chased shadows. England’s most successful passing combination was goalkeeper Joe Hart to striker Andy Carroll, although they did enough to take the match to penalties. Ashley Young and Ashley Cole were the unfortunate ones to miss this time, with Pirlo’s audacious Panenka sending Italy through. “We go away unbeaten in normal time but we go home because we can’t win on penalties,” said a frustrated Hodgson.

England 1-2 Italy, June 2014 (World Cup group stage)

England arrived in Brazil with the difficult task of facing two former World Cup winners in the group stage. They could not have got off to a worse start against Italy as Raheem Sterling missed a glorious chance to open the scoring before Claudio Marchisio’s goal in the 35th minute. England hit back immediately through Daniel Sturridge but in sweltering conditions in Manaus, they suffered in the second half after Mario Balotelli forced Hodgson to chase the game. Balotelli asked the Queen for “a kiss on the cheek” if Italy could beat Costa Rica in their next match and give England a chance to qualify but England and Italy went home early after defeats to Uruguay. “I don’t think there’s any need to doubt this England group of players will go on to do good things,” said Hodgson.


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