Five points to ponder of England's opening Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy in Naples
Having lost the final to Roberto Mancini's side almost two years ago, England will be hoping to exact revenge as well as start their latest shot at glory with victory.
The next Southgate cycle
Speculation was rife that Gareth Southgate would step down after England's World Cup quarter-final exit in December. But, after some soul-searching, the manager opted to remain in place and is focused on leading England to a first major honour since 1966. A slow start to these qualifiers could see pressure ramp up on the 52-year-old as he aims for the three points to take him to a half-century of wins at the helm.
Italy targeting victory for Vialli
The visit of England will be Italy's first game since former striker and coach Gianluca Vialli died in January. The 58-year-old earned 59 senior caps and worked as an assistant to Roberto Mancini as the Azzurri lifted the European Championship trophy at Wembley in 2021. Mancini has already said he wants to win the game as a tribute to his friend and colleague, while Italy will wear special one-off shirts for the occasion.
Kane able to break another record
Skipper Harry Kane drew level with Wayne Rooney as England's all-time leading goalscorer when he scored his first penalty against France in the World Cup quarter-final loss. He then missed another spot-kick to move clear on 54 goals, with Southgate's side crashing out to the beaten finalists. Since then, Kane has become Tottenham's record marksman and will be aiming to find the back of the net in Naples to take the England accolade, too.
Shaw can't Chil out as England's left-back
Manchester United's Luke Shaw was the only recognised left-back in England's World Cup squad in Qatar. He has shone for his country in recent years, including opening the scoring in the Euro 2020 final loss, with Southgate's only other options coming from elsewhere on the pitch as square pegs. Now, though, he has legitimate competition in the shape of fit-again Ben Chilwell. The Chelsea defender missed the World Cup through injury but is now in fine form for his club, giving Southgate yet another positive selection headache.
Concerns over supporter safety
A friendly game between England and Italy supporters was cancelled earlier this week amid security concerns. England men's supporters' team boss Garford Beck said he received a "very sinister and threatening" email purporting to be from "Napoli ultras". The Italian Football Federation has now informed Beck the game has been cancelled after representations were made with them by the English Football Association. There were clashes between Napoli and Eintracht Frankfurt fans before and after their Champions League tie last week, but Southgate said he has no safety concerns as around 2,500 away fans are anticipated in Naples.
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