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Salt in the wounds

England will play against two fallen giants ahead of the World Cup

The Three Lions will play strong opposition ahead of next summer's tournament in Russia

We’re still reeling from Italy’s World Cup qualification failure on Monday night. 

The Italians – who’ve won the tournament four times – failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958, after their play-off defeat against Sweden.

In the wake of the unthinkable, Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Daniele de Ross and probably Giorgio Cheillini have all retired from international football, while coach Gian Piero Ventura will surely be forced to resign.

Dry your eyes, mate

AFP or licensors
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Dry your eyes, mate

But it’s not all bad for the Italians. 

Instead of going to Russia next summer, they’ll get to play a meaningless friendly against England instead.


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That’s right; in the aftermath of Italy’s ‘apocalypse’, the FA confirmed on Tuesday that the Three Lions have arranged a pre-World Cup warm-up clash against the Azzurri.

Gareth Southgate’s side will also play the Netherlands before flying off to Russia – another fallen giant who won’t be competing in the World Cup.

England will travel to Amsterdam to face the Oranje on March 23 before hosting Italy four days later at Wembley.

The Netherlands failed to qualify for their second consecutive major tournament

Reuters
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The Netherlands failed to qualify for their second consecutive major tournament

England last played Italy in a friendly in March 2015, with Andros Townsend scoring late to seal a draw at  the Juventus Stadium.

Their last competitive clash was in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, when Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli scored each side of Daniel Sturridge’s strike.


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Old rivalries

News Group Newspapers Ltd
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Old rivalries

The last time England played the Netherlands in a competitive match was in their famous 4-1 win at Euro 1996, but the Oranje were 2-1 winners in a friendly at Wembley in their last meeting in 2016. ​