After recording, there was something else to record. Harry Kane.
“Of course we didn’t get what we wanted but I think it was a big statement after the disappointment at the World Cup tonight and playing really well for the big spells of the game shows how we want to be a team.”
This is, of course, a team that can go anywhere – any stadium, against any opponent – and completely impose its own game. that’s what could happen that’s even more important about the 2-1 win on Italy After Kane’s record. Or at least the first half could have been like that.
It’s also about a lot more than winning the country for the first time since 1961 or beating them for the first time since 1997.
England they don’t actually get away wins very often, but the wins they claim are usually memorable. In this millennium, they were 5-1 against Germany in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers, 4-1 against Croatia in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, and then 3-2 against Spain in the First Nations League.
Two of these were empathetic hits, and the last was an exciting breakout performance that saw the team overcome new hurdles. It was none of that, but the halftime was everything Gareth Southgate could idealize from an England performance. You could even say that this is all he’s built, right down to how effective the academy products of the last decade have been.
It was actually hard to see a flaw. The defense was secured, the offense was strong, and – most importantly – the midfield was in command.
That’s what really stood out in that first half and why, in his own way, he had qualities that even that famous win in Munich didn’t have. As such, it was not a one-off second-order victory. It was a longer term construction. This was control. It was also something new.
One of England’s long-term regrets was how they couldn’t control the midfield and pace of a game like a truly world-class international team. There has always been that missing factor, something to be handed over to other nations. No more.
What was most impressive about this first half was how they took responsibility for passing passers as well as Marco Verratti and Jorginho and just got the ball. This spread to the gaps in the field that Declan Rice was rushing through.
England had been at the level they wanted for at least 45 minutes long. And while much of this is about team balance, it’s hard not to attribute some of it to the difference a player makes. Well Jude Bellingham, an attacking midfielder, many key figures in club play are now seen as truly unique. It certainly gives the UK something they haven’t had in a long time: momentum and propulsion combined with control.
In this respect, he has the potential to be an excellent modern midfielder. It definitely gives England a new balance around which the whole team can revolve. He led Italy astray.
They didn’t last 90 minutes, but as Southgate later claimed, that was always impossible on the road for a team like Italy. Similarly, Verratti and Jorginho’s midfield will always have a long spell when they have the ball.
The lesson to be learned from this is to go with the confidence from such a win, to make the first half much more repeatable; That it has become the UK’s signature screen. They now have the required players and attributes.
If that wasn’t as memorable as previous big away wins, it was much more instructive to remember when preparing for future matches. There may be a plan for something even bigger.