Football: Matches of the yesterday

Norman Fox recalls four great meetings between the two nations which had lasting echoes
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1976: Italy 2 England 0

Liverpool became only the second English side to win the European Cup at the end of the season in Rome, yet in the same stadium England, managed by Don Revie, slumped damagingly to their only group defeat in November, leaving Italy to qualify for the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina. It was the game which most seriously undermined Revie. He made six changes whereas Italy built on a foundation of seven Juventus players. England's caution was a reflection of their manager's outlook and played into Italy's hands. Keegan deflected a free-kick from Antognoni past his own goalkeeper, Clemence, then England wasted a series of chances made by the inventive Bowles, before Bettega dived to head in a second goal which, theoretically, left Revie 10 games in which to find a settled team before meeting Italy again. He abandoned the challenge.

1977: England 2 Italy 0

Don Revie went to Helsinki to watch Italy play Finland in the summer - via Dubai where he signed a contract and left the Football Association urgently looking for a successor. West Ham's benevolent Ron Greenwood was chosen, originally as caretaker. It was too late to breathe World Cup life into a side who had to beat Italy to have a chance of qualifying. Conversely, Italy were in a comfortable position before they came to Wembley and could afford to lose. Greenwood needed to add surprise to England's physical game. He chose two wingers, Coppell and Peter Barnes, with Wilkins and Brooking in midfield ahead of a Liverpool-based defence. England played well. Keegan was outstanding, scoring one goal and making another for Brooking, but the damage had been done before Greenwood arrived.

1980: Italy 1 England 0

Ron Greenwood's tactical innovations and organisation had guaranteed that he was offered the manager's job on a permanent basis but, in a defence-minded European Championship in Italy, he was unable to find the ingenuity needed to succeed, particularly against the Italians who were desperate to justify hysterically high local expectation. In Turin Greenwood gambled by playing the internationally inexperienced Nottingham Forest striker Birtles, who was twice a European Cup winner, but with Keegan tired after a long season in Germany and Francis absent, the cool authority of Wilkins was not enough. Twelve minutes from time Tardelli finished one of Italy's more attractive moves in a performance that hinted at the growing influence of attacking, skilful midfielders through an outstanding display from Antognoni, provider of the winner.

1990: Italy 2 England 1

In a largely negative World Cup, Italy, the best team in the tournament, struggled to find support for the thrusting Schillaci, the competition's top scorer with only six goals. England discovered too late that they had a good but appallingly treated manager in Bobby Robson. Italy lost in the semi-finals to the disappointing Argentina and neither they nor England had much spirit left for a third-place play-off. It was Robson's last match in charge and one England again lost to a late penalty (having also lost tearfully in a semi-final penalty shoot-out against Germany). Ironically, although of no significance, it was one of the most attractive games in the tournament. Shilton, playing his last international, first rescued England then gifted Baggio a goal. Platt got a superb equaliser but Parker felled Schillaci. England just knew they would lose to a penalty - and did.