Three thoughts from Wembley on England’s 1-1 draw with Italy in England’s final friendly before the provisional World Cup squad is released in May.
Two friendlies against the faded aristocracy of European football, a win and a draw, and Gareth Southgate will probably enter the last few weeks before he names his England World Cup squad with a sense of quiet satisfaction.
The result was almost an afterthought, but it’s the progression of his team that will please Southgate, more than the 1-1 draw with Italy. Jamie Vardy had given England the lead, before VAR once again encroached into our collective conscious to (correctly) award a penalty to Italy, converted by Lorenzo Insigne.
But for England this was a game with more positives than negatives, and one in which several players either strengthened their cases for a seat on the plane to Russia, demanded they be included in the starting XI or simply emphasised the excellence they have shown throughout the season.
Vardy fell into the middle of those three categories, as did Jesse Lingard, and the two combined nicely to put England ahead in the first half. Raheem Sterling was fouled, Lingard’s wits were quicker than some dithering Italian defenders as he took a quick free kick and released Vardy, who lashed into the roof of the net.
It almost feels heretical to even think that Harry Kane might not start England’s first game at the World Cup, assuming he is fit. This is the one talent that virtually every other country in Russia would covet, something England are not used to having in recent years, so to leave him out would be ludicrous.
All that said, Jamie Vardy is making an extremely compelling case for inclusion, underlined by his ruthless and emphatic finish to give England the lead. That was Vardy’s 10 goal in his last 15 starts for club and country and a striker in that sort of form is tricky to ignore.
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