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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Wembley Stadium

Impressive England end decades-long wait for players to emulate Brooking-Keegan downing of Italy

England 3-1 Italy : Euro Qualifier, Wembley Stadium 83,194

Well you don't see that every day.

Home games against Italy have been truly wretched for England down the years, but this time they made light of an early setback to canter home - securing their passage to next year's Euro finals in Germany in the process.

It can't possibly make up for the lost opportunity on home soil to claim silverware two years ago against Italy, but it was sweet none the less.

That game - the 1-1, lost on penalties saga after the mass gate-crashing of England's Euro final two years ago - was entirely in keeping with the misery visited upon ever-hopeful Three Lions fans.

There have been the 1-0 defeats inflicted by strikes from Fabio Capello and Gianfranco Zola and other undistinguished draws. The teams played out a turgid 0-0 in the Nations League at Molineux and before that a late leveller in 2018 secured a 1-1 draw for the Italians when all had looked lost.

England just never seemed capable of beating the Italians, who have often boasted greater technical ability and street-wise savvy to get the job done.

An astonishing 46 years have elapsed since it was last achieved - and even that great night back in November 1977 when Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan gave England a 2-0 World Cup win was tinged with regrets. Qualification for the 78 World Cup in Argentina was already all-but out of the question by then.

England played handsomely to win 2-1 in Naples in the earlier group fixture in the latest competition, but it seemed like business as usual when they allowed Giovanni Di Lorenzo to scamper down the right and cross low for West Ham reject Gianluca Scamacca to fire into the roof of the net with only 15 minutes played.

Even though this is not a vintage Italian side compared to the giants of the past, the Azzurri always make life difficult in these parts and England's overall record of one win in the past seven encounters pointed to more woes.

It was level at the break though - Harry Kane blasting home a penalty after Jude Bellingham had been tripped by Di Lorenzo. It was the Bayern Munich striker's 60th for his country, with 23 of them coming under the Arch. The same number that Bobby Charlton scored on the hallowed turf.

But wait, what was this on 57 minutes? England in front? Yes, it actually happened, with Marcus Rashford driving into the danger zone after superb work by Bellingham to ease the ball away from a blue shirt and play the ball out to the Man United striker drifting in from the left.

Redemption of sorts for the man responsible for one of the three spot-kick misses by England in that fateful Euro final.

And then it was the turn of Harry to make the game safe on 76 minutes. For once it was about pace for him as well as strength as he nudged a ball around Alessandro Bastoni and sprinted clear before tucking past Gianlluigi Donnarumma with ease.

A man at the top of his game.

As was Bellingham, who received a huge appreciative ovation when he departed six minutes from time. A star in the making, if he isn't one already. His energy and hunger to be involved lit up the stadium.

It was high time England changed the story. For Brooking and Keegan, read Kane and Bellingham.

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