Two teams with hopes of correcting their World Cup failures at next year’s European Championship will meet in a high-profile friendly in Turin on Tuesday. Italy beat England 2-1 in Brazil last summer, but both countries exited at the first hurdle and have since been working to rebuild ahead of Euro 2016.
While for Italy that included a change of coach, England opted to stick with Roy Hodgson. And, thus far, he couldn’t have wished for a smoother qualification campaign. An opening win in Switzerland got it off to a perfect start, and a comfortable 4-0 win over Lithuania last Friday made it five wins from five and a place in France already all-but assured.
The match was most notable for a debut for Tottenham striker Harry Kane, and a continuation of the Premier League top scorer’s fairytale season when scoring 79 seconds after coming on as a substitute. It could get even better on Tuesday, with Hodgson revealing that Kane will play from the start at the Juventus Stadium.
“Harry Kane will start and Wayne Rooney will be captain,” Hodgson said in his pre-match press conference. “It’ll be nice to see Kane and Rooney playing together from the start. Harry deserves his chance. It’s exciting that he has done well in the Premier League and hopefully he can bring his form into the England team.”
While Kane grabbed the headlines against Lithuania, Rooney opened the scoring to take his England scoring tally to 47 and move within two goals of his country’s all-time record. Alongside Kane and Rooney will be an experimental lineup. Hodgson’s hand has been forced after a host of withdrawals before the Lithuania game was followed by several more a day following it. Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling, James Milner and Leighton Baines all pulled out through injury, with only Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand being called up as a replacement.
“If we are going to test our players out, you’ll see them given a bigger test against Italy than a team like Lithuania can give us,” Hodgson told the Football Association’s website. “We will be playing with players we wouldn’t normally rely upon. There are an awful lot of people in the squad I count on that we’ve lost. But what it means is for those who are still with us, many who are relatively untried, there will be a chance for them to show that my faith in selecting them for this squad was justified.”
There is also an element of the untried about Italy’s team, with seven changes made to the one that escaped with a draw in Bulgaria on Saturday. Having taken over following Cesare Prandelli’s exit in the wake of the World Cup, former Juventus coach Antonio Conte has not had an easy ride so far. Italy remain second, behind Croatia, in Group H, and even their victories have been unconvincing, with single-goal wins over Azerbaijan and Malta.
Conte also received criticism in some circles for his decision to call-up foreign born players Franco Vazquez and Eder for the first time. But Brazilian-born Eder showed his quality against Bulgaria, with a stunning equalizing goal. And the Sampdoria forward will now get his first start against England, alongside Southampton’s Graziano Pelle. Also making their full debuts will be midfielders Roberto Soriano and Mirko Valdifiori. Andrea Pirlo, the scourge of England in the past, misses out due to injury.
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: ESPN Deportes
Live stream: ESPN3, Watch ESPN