England beat the Netherlands 1-0 in Amsterdam on Friday night thanks to Jesse Lingard’s first international goal. It was an impressive performance from an experimental line-up, although it should be put into the context of coming against a poor Dutch side which continues to struggle on the international stage.
Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions return to Wembley on Tuesday night to face another team which is failing to live up to its international pedigree, Italy. The Azzurri succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to an understrength Argentina side at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium on Friday evening in a match which Lionel Messi watched from the sidelines. The Italians will be missing from the World Cup in Russia and a mixture of veterans and youth players against Argentina confirmed that they are a side in transition.
There are two other eye-catching fixtures on Tuesday night as Germany take on Brazil and Spain face Argentina. The Germans and Spanish played out an entertaining 1-1 draw on Friday night – as predicted here – and neither will have diminished their reputation ahead of the big summer tournament. Brazil coasted to a 3-0 defeat over hosts Russia on the same day but will have a much sterner examination against Germany – the side that humiliated them 7-1 in the semi-final of their own tournament four years ago. Spain versus Argentina will be a meeting of two of the most flamboyant and possession-based sides on the planet, and although it has the potential to be a thriller, there is a distinct possibility it will fail to catch fire with so little at stake.
After the win in the Netherlands, we’re backing England to make it two from two in this international break with a victory over Italy at Wembley on Tuesday evening. It’s worth noting that Dele Alli, Eric Dier, and Jamie Vardy all sat on the bench for Friday’s win in Amsterdam and all three are expected to start the match against the Azzurri. Alli and Vardy should add some attacking impetus to Southgate’s side, while Dier will bring much-needed steel to midfield in-front of an inexperienced England defence. Kyle Walker started as part of a back-three on Friday night with his Spurs replacement Trippier in the right-back slot. It remains to be seen whether the England manager sticks with this format or whether he will bring in Maguire, Mawson or Tarkowski for an international start. Liverpool’s Joe Gomez is certain to miss out after withdrawing from the squad through injury, as has Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere.
England are unbeaten at home since Euro 2016, winning all of their World Cup qualifiers and drawing three friendlies against Spain, Brazil and Germany. The latter two of those were 0-0 draws but the Three Lions were 2-0 up against Spain in November 2016 before Aspas and Isco scored very late goals to draw level. The last time they played Italy in a friendly was in 2012 when England ran out 2-1 winners.
Italy are at a low level for a side which has long been considered one of Europe’s best. Under Antonio Conte, they over-performed at Euro 2016 and were knocked out in the quarter-finals on penalties in Germany. However, they were always second-best to Spain in World Cup qualifying and lost 1-0 on aggregate to Sweden in the playoffs. The 2-0 defeat to Argentina last week means that the Italians have only won two of the last seven games. They’ve failed to score in the last three of those and could only find the net once each in fixtures against Macedonia, Israel and Albania.
Germany have drawn their last three friendlies – against England, France and Spain – and another stalemate could be on the cards when they take on Brazil. It has been a common occurrence over the years that the Germans coast through friendlies only to lift their game significantly for tournament football, and a similar scenario is being played out in the build-up to Russia 2018. They tend to do just enough to ensure they don’t suffer defeat and it would be no great surprise to see another draw here.
Brazil may well be looking for revenge after that 7-1 drubbing in the World Cup semi-final four years ago, but in a similar vein to Germany, they also tend to coast through their many friendlies and rarely get into top gear in non-competitive matches. The price of defeat amounts to more that the benefit of victory in this kind of game and both sides will be happy to finish the game with reputations intact.
Leo Messi sat out the friendly against Italy on Friday which suggests he is likely to start against his adopted country in a mouth-watering game on Tuesday night. Argentina have so many attacking options that there have been rumours that Juve’s Dybala may not even board the plane for Russia but defensively they remain suspect. A recent 4-2 friendly defeat to Nigeria should sound alarm bells.
A similar case could be made against Spain, despite a world of experience at the back in Pique and Ramos. Clean sheets were a regular occurence during qualification but a 3-3 draw with Russia recently highlights the potential problems. Both sides are good enough to score against each other here and we could see a great game. The draw is the best value option though and it is a result that both teams would be happy enough to accept.
England to beat Italy
Tuesday 27th March, 20:00 GMT
Germany and Brazil to draw
Tuesday 27th March, 19:45 GMT
Spain and Argentina to draw
Tuesday 27th March, 20:30 GMT