By Mark Walker, PA
Italy coach Roberto Mancini says England remain “one of the best teams in the world” despite their two recent defeats to Hungary.
England, who cannot qualify for the Nations League finals, take on Mancini’s side in their penultimate Group A3 game in Milan on Friday.
Mancini said: “I think England is one of the best teams in the world. It’s full of talent, especially the forwards.
“They have many players apart from Harry Kane, who is an extraordinary player, but the young players around him can make a difference. So it will be a very hard match for us.”
The two sides played out a goalless draw at Molineux in June in their first meeting since Italy’s penalty shoot-out win in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.
The Three Lions are winless in this season’s Nations League. They sit bottom of their group after taking two points from four matches and will be relegated if they fail to win in Milan.
Their 1-0 and 4-0 defeats to Hungary, in Budapest in June and at Molineux in July, sandwiched draws against Germany and Italy.
🏴 England must beat Italy in Milan on Friday to avoid relegation from League A...
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2024) September 22, 2022
But Mancini, whose side will stay in contention for the finals if they avoid defeat to Gareth Southgate’s side, is paying little attention to recent results.
“The English team is a great team,” Mancini said. “It was a great team in Euro 2020 and it was a great team before.
“It’s a national team full of talented players and I believe they can improve further, even though they lost two matches against Hungary.
“I think that the English players at the end of the season are very tired because they play much more matches than other national teams.”
📣 𝐁𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 📣
— Italy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@Azzurri_En) September 16, 2022
Italy skipper Leonardo Bonucci feels his side can use England’s visit to Milan to gauge themselves in the world order following their failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.
Bonucci said: “It’s going to be a very important match because it will tell us where we are in this rebirth, let’s say.
“Because after failing to qualify for the World Cup the coach has changed many players, so tomorrow we will understand where we really are, where we need to improve and if there is something to improve.
“But I think this will be the best match possible to start again and to build something new and important for the future.
“England are a great team so we need to pay attention to their individual qualities because offensively they have very talented players, who can change the match in the blink of an eye.”
Mancini confirmed AC Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali was expected to withdraw from the squad due to injury.