England has secured their qualification for Euro 2024 in Germany next summer after coming from behind to defeat Italy at Wembley, inspired by another Jude Bellingham masterclass.
Gareth Southgate’s side only needed one point to secure their place, and it briefly looked like the celebration might be delayed when former West Ham United forward, Gianluca Scamacca, gave Italy the lead from close range after 15 minutes.
Bellingham once again proved to be England’s role model as the 20-year-old star from Real Madrid led the comeback, winning the penalty that brought captain Harry Kane’s equalizer.
Kane scored his 60th goal for his country after Bellingham made a run and was fouled by Giovanni di Lorenzo after 32 minutes.
And it was Bellingham’s surging run and pass that set up Marcus Rashford to cut inside and beat Italy’s goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma, just before the one-hour mark, before Kane extinguished any hopes of an Italy recovery when he raced clear to score England’s third with 13 minutes left.
The victory was England’s first home victory over Italy since November 1977 and completed a double in the group after their victory in Naples in March.
England tops Group C with 16 points, while this defeat means Italy is in third place and will face Ukraine in their final qualifier, which will be a decisive match to determine the second-place finisher.
Bellingham’s performances for England and Real Madrid this season have fully justified all the superlatives aimed in his direction, and this was another magnificent display from the youngster.
The midfielder was involved in everything, from being at the heart of most good things produced by England to even orchestrating the Wembley crowd when the atmosphere threatened to become subdued.
He is the real deal and already marked down as England’s superstar.
Bellingham’s relentless running and fierce determination were instrumental in England’s recovery from that early setback of conceding, with Italy unable to cope with his energy and creativity.
His two bursting runs led to England’s first two goals, fully deserving the standing ovation he was afforded when he was substituted late in the game that had already been won.
Bellingham also feeds off the growing adulation from England’s fans, and he rightly lapped up their cheers after the final whistle.
Mixed fortunes for the Manchester City duo
Manchester City pair Phil Foden and Kalvin Phillips were given the chance to push their claims for starting places in Southgate’s plans after the friendly against Australia.
There were contrasting fortunes as Foden excelled, but Phillips struggled, betrayed by his lack of game time at City.
Foden, as usual, was busy and creative. Bellingham, understandably, received much credit for setting up Rashford’s crucial second goal, but Foden’s determination to regain possession to set up the attack should not be underestimated.
It may be that he ends up in a direct battle with another City teammate, Jack Grealish, for a place in England’s starting lineup, and he will have impressed Southgate with this display.
Phillips, meanwhile, struggled to get up to speed, and there has to be a measure of sympathy for him because he is desperately short of match sharpness. He looked exactly like what he currently is – someone who has not had much football in the last year, with an early yellow card not helping.
This will be a dilemma down the line if Phillips continues to be marginalized at City, but for now, England can celebrate another smooth, untroubled qualification for a major tournament.