Luciano Spalletti had planned to tap into the recent Premier League experience of Nicolo Zaniolo and Sandro Tonali for Italy’s Euro 2024 qualifier against England at Wembley. Both players featured in his first game in charge of the Azzurri last month were called again for this latest international round. On Friday, however, they left Italy’s training base after being informed that they were investigated by public prosecutors in Turin.
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) sent them back to their clubs after police visited their training camp at Coverciano and questioned them as part of an investigation into alleged betting breaches. They will return to their clubs before Tuesday’s friendly with Malta and the Euro 2024 qualifier with England.
Disgraced Italian paparazzo Fabrizio Corona, whose claims of illegally obtaining and blackmailing photographs have cost him time in prison, broke the news that Zaniolo and Tonali were being investigated. He alleged that one of the players had made bets on their own team’s matches even when sitting on the bench. Italian newspaper La Repubblica and the federation later confirmed that Zaniolo and Tonali had been questioned as part of the probe.
Tonali and Zaniolo were questioned about betting activities on their club sides and international matches. Under Italian rules, a player guilty of illegal betting could be banned for at least three years.
England coach Gareth Southgate will probably go for a full-strength squad, barring any further setbacks to the fitness of Arsenal duo Bukayo Saka and Kieran Trippier. Trippier is expected to replace the injured right-back, while Saka should be fit enough for a place on the left flank in an attempt to stifle Italy’s attacking prowess.
A frantic start sees both sides exchange chances in a frenzied opening period, with England’s wing-backs, Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier, particularly active as they combine with Manchester United teammate Marcus Rashford. An early cross-in from Shaw almost puts Sterling in at the penalty spot, but Chiellini is quickly on hand to thwart him.
Suddenly, the pace slows a little, partly because of a brief stoppage as Jorginho receives treatment for what appears to be a hamstring strain. But the break also gives both teams a chance to regroup and recharge.
The second half begins with another quick start, and England are soon threatening again. This time, a superb through ball from Trippier sets up Shaw to run clear and shoot narrowly wide of the far post. Then, a cross from the left is headed goalwards by Sterling, but it is blocked on the line by the outrushing Giorgio Chiellini.