England have suffered the ignominy of relegation from the Nations League’s top tier after a tepid defeat to Italy that raises further concern ahead of the winter World Cup.
Germany were also beaten as Hungary consolidated their place at the top of the group with a 1-0 win in Leipzig. It was their first loss under Hansi Flick.
Among the favourites to triumph in Qatar having reached the semi-finals four years ago and the Euro 2020 final, things have gone awry for Gareth Southgate’s side of late. They have failed to score in three matches and only notched a penalty in their last five.
England failed to win any of their four June fixtures and produced a meek response to their 4-0 Molineux mauling against Hungary, with Giacomo Raspadori sealing Roberto Mancini’s Italy a 1-0 victory on Friday night.
A fifth straight match without a win means Southgate’s men have been relegated from Group A of the Nations League – a competition they finished third in three years ago – with a game to spare.
Demotion is embarrassing but the performance is arguably of more concern given it is just 59 days until their World Cup opener against Iran.
The Euro 2020 finalists had played out a forgettable goalless draw behind closed doors in June and the first half in Milan somehow managed to be even more dreary as England toiled against the absentee-hit Azzurri.
It did not get any better from the visitors’ perspective as Italy, who will not be in Qatar, kept them at bay and secured victory through Raspadori’s fine curling effort.
Southgate’s side lacked the ruthlessness called for on the eve of a San Siro encounter that ends with more questions than answers, with just Monday’s home match against Germany to come before the World Cup.
The Germans will be seeking a better display themselves after being beaten by Adam Szalai’s sensational heel flick.
The 34-year-old Hungary captain, who will end his international career after their last League A-Group 3 game against Italy on Monday, raced to the near post and flicked the ball into the net with his heel from a corner in the 17th minute to leave goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen frozen on the spot.
Germany rarely looked like levelling and Hungary will host Italy on Monday knowing a draw will be enough to secure top spot.