Kane faces bizarre question as England goalposts predictably moved against ‘barely competitive’ Italy
England finally delivered that Win Over A Big Nation but actually Italy aren’t all that. And besides, there is a bizarrely-timed Harry Kane question to ask.
That’s gotta be Kane
While most might choose to focus on the present and indulge in the glory of Harry Kane becoming England’s record goalscorer in an impressive win over Italy, some cannot help but put a negative slant on it all.
The morning after, the MailOnline burst those bubbles in a way only they can:
‘SAMI MOKBEL: England can’t rely on Harry Kane forever… so what is the succession plan? Natural heir Mason Greenwood’s chances look non-existent, Ivan Toney is 27 and faces a ban – so what next?’
A reminder that ‘natural heir’ Mason Greenwood’s entire England career consisted of three touches in 12 aimless minutes of a win over Iceland in September 2020, long before his prospects of replacing anyone were torched.
His name does not belong on such a feature, never mind placed so prominently. Way to bring down the mood.
Marcus Rashford is one such option to replace Kane which Mokbel dismisses because ‘he is excelling at Manchester United playing out wide, not through the middle’. And that is largely down to interpretation so fair enough.
But elsewhere in the Daily Mail, Mokbel offers more thoughts in THE NOTEBOOK:
‘Marcus Rashford took to social media on Thursday to reveal he is taking some ‘Downtime’ in the Big Apple.
‘The Manchester United forward is in the form of his life and would likely have started this game had he not withdrawn from the squad.
‘But the injury has not prevented Rashford from flying to New York.’
No, an issue which has pretty much only been described as ‘a knock’ by every outlet reporting on it ‘has not prevented’ the bloke from sitting on a plane for a bit. And why would or should it?
Any fear that the goalposts might be moved as soon as Southgate delivered that elusive Win Over A Big Nation – because previous victories over Spain and Germany don’t count for whatever reason – were realised within a few paragraphs of Ian Ladyman’s article in the Daily Mail:
‘This was a night that should not have been this hard for England. This is not a good Italian side and had it not been for Harry Maguire’s error just before the hour, it’s quite possible that England would had won by more.’
There it is. Italy’s starting midfield was the same as it was in the Euro 2021 final, with Gianluigi Donnarumma and Giovanni Di Lorenzo also reprising their roles under Roberto Mancini. Italy had lost only five of their last 50 matches, had not lost a European Championship qualifier since 2006 and had not lost a home qualifier since 1999. Italy had beaten England in September, with six players starting both that game and this Azzurri defeat.
You can’t criticise England and Southgate for not beating a major nation, then immediately declare said major nation to be ‘not a good side’ as soon as England beat them – in impressive circumstances, no less.
‘This was a night that should not have been this hard for England,’ is an absolutely nonsensical take from an impressive away win in a difficult atmosphere. Bore off.
Lie back and think of England
‘But the real truth of this Italian side was laid bare in a first half in which they were barely competitive. In their new look Adidas kit with three white stripes down each arm, Roberto Mancini’s team didn’t look much like Italy and apart from an opening five or ten minutes when they enjoyed the lion’s share of the ball, they didn’t play much like them either.’
Ever thought that might be because England played brilliantly enough in the first half to make Italy look bad? There is always more than one set of footballers trying to win a game at any one time, you know.
Even chief Southgate critic Henry Winter praises ‘a famous if slightly nervy Euro 2024 qualifying win’ in The Times. But this is a curious line:
‘England have so many good players and Gareth Southgate allowed them to play on the front foot. Gone was the inhibition that held them back against elite opponents in the past.’
Who was it that demanded ‘fury’ and ‘anger’ at England’s defeat to France in the World Cup quarter-final? They had 16 shots to eight and 58% possession in that match; all of a sudden seven shots to Italy’s 10 in a win with 42% possession is being ‘allowed to play on the front foot’ and with no ‘inhibition’?
One of those performances produced a 2-1 loss and the other earned a 2-1 win, both featuring Kane penalties. Perhaps it really was down to “fine margins” all along, Henry.
What about now? I’m 50/50
‘England were poor in the second half but it was still a hugely important win both for the team and for manager Gareth Southgate, who became only the third England boss after Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Walter Winterbottom to amass 50 wins in the job’ – Oliver Holt, Daily Mail.
See, that scans much better than saying Southgate ‘would become the fastest manager to reach 50 England wins behind only Sir Alf Ramsey if England prevail on Thursday night’.
Foot in mouth
‘It was far more nervous than it should have been before England finally celebrated a victory which almost gives them one foot in next year’s Euros because they have won their toughest game of all’ – the Daily Mirror‘s John Cross, who is thankfully not in charge of what would presumably be a remarkably complacent final seven qualifiers.
‘It was a terrific finish from the youngster, who didn’t look like a debutant’ – Kieran King, Daily Mirror.
He’s talking about Mateo Retegui. Mateo Retegui, who turns 24 next month. Mateo Retegui, who was older than seven of the players who featured for either side. Mateo Retegui, the ‘youngster’.
Portugal. The Man
‘Cristiano Ronaldo breaks yet another record to show Man Utd what he can still offer’ – Daily Mirror website.
See, Man Utd. Cristiano Ronaldo can make his 197th appearance for Portugal and score a penalty and a free-kick against Liechtenstein. And you daft sods apparently needed a reminder.