Stagnant Italy with point to prove against England

ROME – The Italian national team travel to London tomorrow to face England on the back of a monotonous display in which they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against a largely untested Argentina side. The result comes as a further blow to Italy with another resounding loss in the absence of the injured Lionel Messi.

 Tuesday’s visit to Wembley could prove pivotal for the Azzurri, not only for interim head coach, Luigi Di Biagio, but primarily for the players, hoping to restore credibility having recorded just one victory, against Albania, since June last year.

 Fridays night’s outcome did little to dispel the agony of Italy’s failed World Cup bid in a lacklustre performance, synonymous of months gone by, as another goalless display proved all too evocative of a frustrating campaign. Never has an Italian side gone four consecutive games without scoring, as Di Biagio’s men look to avoid an unhappy entrance into the record books.

 Following a moving tribute to the late Davide Astori, the Azzurri delivered an uninspired performance against Argentina on a night brimming with inspiration. The message, “Davide forever with us” was displayed around the stadium and embroidered into the Italian shirts as the national team played their first game since the defender’s passing.

 Buffon, having backtracked on his decision to retire from international football, was the only seemingly reinvigorated Italian, displaying his ageless reactions throughout the night to deny Angel Di Maria, Nicolas Otamendi and teammate Gonzalo Higuain. The veteran goalkeeper was, however, merely able to limit the Italian’s embarrassment, finding himself blind as Ever Benega opened the scoring before Manuel Lanzini’s emphatic finish rounded off a deserved victory for the Argentinians.

 Whilst expectations may not have been particularly high in the build-up to Italy’s friendly with Argentina, traces of transformation were expected, no matter how slight. The nature of Italy’s defeat, however, purely helped to underline the desperately needed change as the incoming head coach prepares to hit the reset button.

 For now, at least, the Azzurri hold one final opportunity to offer a glimpse of hope as Italian fans await a side-lined screening of Russia 2018.