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This article gives an overview of two soccer superpowers, England and Italy. Both nations have a rich history, with proud fans, players, and coaches. And also a rivalry, to say the least. They share some of the iconic moments of major tournaments’ history. For example, Peter Shilton’s fumble in his last international match during the 1990 World Cup. That led Roberto Baggio to score for Italy. But these are only a few pieces of the large picture. In this article, I give a short overview of their national teams from major tournament performances to the most iconic players in their respective countries.
Italy is here the clear-cut winner. Four World Cups, two EURO titles, and ten appearances in finals (EURO + World Cup) speak for themselves. England „only“ has two final appearances. The first is the 1966 World Cup final, which they won. The second is the EURO 2020. The latter is an important one for two key reasons. First, England had a chance to play their first-ever EURO final at Wembley. In front of home fans, who were mad enough to break into the stadium. Second, the opponent was Italy, who won the soccer match in penalties. What could be better than winning the EURO title at Wembley at the expense of England?
Few other things stand out about England versus Italy in major tournaments:
- First, England has never beaten Italy in a major tournament match. England has two draws against Italy, but both were knockout matches, resulting in penalty kicks. England lost both shootouts. So, in reality, England has lost all five against Italy at major tournaments. Italians can be pretty happy about this.
- Like nature, so doesn’t soccer like an empty place. What I mean is that England and Italy alternated their better periods. When one was doing good, the other underperformed. Although it was Italy that had most of the time the upper hand. The notable exception was between 1950-1970 when the English won and the Italians did the losing. Otherwise, it has been vice versa.
At the of writing this article, Italy and England met each other in 29 matches in total. The first was in 1933 and ended in a 1-1 draw. Splitting goals equally has been a theme between these two 11 soccer matches that have ended in a tie. But Italy has won more than England, with 10 and 8 wins respectively. Furthermore, Italy versus England doesn’t produce many goals in general. Over 29 contests, 68 goals have been scored, making the average 2.34 goals per match. They have scored a combined five goals in a single game while facing each other. Despite England holding the largest win with a 4-0 rollover in Italy, it happened in 1948. More important is the fact that Italy took soccer out of English hands at EURO 2020. Soccer was stolen from the home, I could say.
Of course, I can’t pass by mentioning some of the most legendary players who have played for Italy or England. What did they achieve and how are they remembered.
- Geoff Hurst – I bring him out for one reason. He is the only player to score a hat-trick in the World Cup final and was a cornerstone of England’s 1966 World Cup win.
- Kevin Keegan – the only English player to have won Ballon d’Or more than once. He won the award in 1978 and 1979. Despite that, he did not have much success with England.
- Peter Shilton – English Ironman, whose senior career lasted for miraculous 31 years (1966-1997). He has the most caps for England (125) and holds the record for having the most competitive matches with 1,390.
- David Beckham – One of the most creative players of his time, I would say. He was a free kick specialist and a Manchester United legend with his moments. Like his infamous red card against Argentina or his goal against Greece.
- Wayne Rooney – With 120 caps, Rooney has the most caps to his name among outfield players. His talents got attention quickly and progressed to having a successful career. He is also a four-time England Player of the Year winner. At the time of writing, he is the all-time leading goalscorer for England, with 53 goals.
- Gianluigi Buffon – the most-capped Italian player, 2006 World Cup winner. He is a true sportsman because he stayed at Juventus even after the Calciopoli scandal. He is considered to be one of the best goalkeepers of all time.
- Fabio Cannavaro – legendary Italian defender who won the 2006 World Cup. His best moment was winning Ballon d’Or in the same year. Not particularly tall for a center-back, he was a staunch defender and nightmare to opposing strikers in his prime.
- Paolo Maldini – another legendary defender whose tackles were near perfect. He played for AC Milan for a staggering 25 years (1984-2009) and made deep runs with Italy in major tournaments. His best team achievement is winning the Champions League five times.
- Paolo Rossi – successful forward who gained glory with his club and national team. He is one of the three players to have won the World Cup, Golden Ball, and Golden boot in the same tournament he did in 1982.
- Roberto Baggio – while a very talented striker and prolific with Italy, leading them to the 1994 World Cup final. He also won Ballon d’Or in 1993. Regardless of being one of three Italians to have scored nine goals in the World Cup for Italy, he never played at EUROs.
Italy and England have been soccer’s superpowers for the better part of their history. Although Italians missing two World Cups in a row is unusual, the past is on their side. In the case of England, their players and squads yield a lot of promise. But they do not tend to realize it and lose often on penalty kicks. Yet, both soccer nations can be proud of their players and glories. Italians have more of the latter.