Gareth Southgate's Chelsea-less England side was held to a draw by Davide Zappacosta’s Italy tonight as the game ended 1-1 after a thrilling first half and a rather lacklustre second. Chelsea's right wing-back started the game for the first time since the Azzurri’s draw with Macedonia back in October 2017 and even got to play the full 90 minutes.
The game turned out to be a very cagey affair at the beginning, starting with a few apprehensive situations as mistakes by centre-back John Stones and his comical skills on the ball led to Ciro Immobile nearly capitalising on the edge of England's penalty box after 3 minutes, as well as the defender letting the striker freely head the ball 10 minutes later.
However, in the course of the half, England started to increasingly get more dominant, creating several chances as Italy failed to cope with the immense pace of Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. This eventually led to the Leicester City striker putting England up 26 minutes into the match following a quickly taken free kick that caught the Italian defenders completely off guard. Generally, Italy was only ever able to create a dangerous attacking move if an England player made a mistake and thus deservedly trailed at the end of the first 45 minutes.
In the second half, it seemed as if England was going to continue their impressive display and did so by pressing and stringing together numerous passes for the first quarter of an hour, though never really troubling Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal, compared to the first 45 minutes. Multiple substitutions started to disrupt the flow of play and England seemed to miss the legs of the substituted Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jesse Lingard, the game becoming slower and consequently suiting Italy. Luigi Di Biagio's side were now the ones who dominated possession and started creating more chances as Jorginho showed exactly why he's being held in such high regard among Europe's elite.
Eventually, a controversial VAR decision lead to a penalty for Italy, the speedy Federico Chiesa getting fouled by England debutant James Tarkowski, and Lorenzo Insigne equalising from the spot in minute 77. This is also how things ended as the remainder of the game didn't involve any exciting scenes despite Italy staying in control.
Coming to Chelsea's Davide Zappacosta, the Italian unfortunately failed to impress after being given a start by Di Biagio, even though he began the game defensively solid and tried to come forward and overlap Antonio Candreva as often as possible (one could actually see that the two were very well in sync). As England started taking over the game in the first half, Zappacosta increasingly struggled to deal with the likes of Ashley Young and was caught napping on several occasions, the latter actually sliding into Davide in form of a very dangerous tackle which should have led to a red card.
Ashley Young. yikes. pic.twitter.com/QuvFDiyjB6— amadí (@amadoit__) March 27, 2018
The second half didn't change things as Zappacosta was far too static and he contributed very little going forward. Honestly, it seemed as if the Chelsea man was already knackered despite rarely featuring for the Blues recently. Due to Italy predominantly working over their left side Zappacosta barely ever saw the ball and hence cut an irritated figure. In injury time, he did see the ball more often, nearly finding the right pass that would have allowed an Italy player a 1v1 situation with Jack Butland. However, the linesman raised his flag for offside and that was that.
All in all, I unfortunately doubt that Davide will have done enough to displace Alessandro Florenzi as Italy’s starting right back/right wing-back since the Chelsea defender wasn't able to fully show what he's capable of like he did while playing for his former club Torino, something that has generally been the case for him this season. One can only hope that he ends the campaign on a high and shows us what he's really made of in the 2018-19 season.