U21s boss recalls previous encounters against Italy

Tuesday 23 Jun 2015
Gareth Southgate featured in both of the 1997 games against Italy
As England prepare to face Italy in their decisive group match at the UEFA Under-21s Championship on Wednesday, Gareth Southgate recalled some of his own encounters with the Azzurri.

Southgate was part of the Three Lions squad which won Le Tournoi in France in 1997, with a 2-0 victory against Italy helping them to the title.

England v Italy

UEFA European U21 Championship
Group B
7.45pm (BST), Wednesday 24 June 2015
Ander Stadium, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Live on BT Sport

And only a few months later U21s boss Southgate and his Three Lions team-mates produced a fine performance in Rome to secure a 0-0 draw against the Italians and seal their spot at the World Cup in France.

"At that time, we were playing three at the back under Glenn and we’d previously lost at Wembley to Italy in qualifying," he told TheFA.com

"We were still waiting to have the away qualifier in Italy, which ended up being pivotal, but it was a fantastic tournament for us.

"It was the year before the World Cup, so we could stay in the camp we were going to be based at and there was really good quality opposition.

"I remember Gianfranco Zola was playing and I was marking him. He was really flying in our league at that time.

"But we played well in that game, it was certainly our best performance in the tournament.

"We were beaten by Brazil and we beat France, who played very well against us. But against Italy we played very well."

The goalscorers in that game in Nantes were Ian Wright and Paul Scholes, who scored his first goal for England during those early stages of his international career. 

Following on from that, the crunch qualifier for the World Cup arrived - and it is a night Southgate remembers fondly.

The Three Lions only needed a draw at the Olympic Stadium in October 1997 to ensure their place at the following summer's showpiece. And they produced a fantastic display to seal a 0-0 draw.

"That was a memorable night," added Southgate.

"Glenn Hoddle organised our team brilliantly and we were able to soak up a lot of pressure - we almost played the game in an Italian manner.

"There are many ways to go through in tournaments and get key results, but that was a really dogged and professional performance."

You can watch how Southgate's Young Lions fare against Italy this evening by tuning in live on BT Sport, kick-off 7.45pm.

By Nicholas Veevers