Gareth Southgate has revealed his surprise after Italy failed to secure qualification to the 2022 World Cup.
Italy will become the first reigning European champions to miss out on the World Cup since Greece in 2006 after suffering a shock defeat to North Macedonia in their play-off on Thursday.
Roberto Mancini’s side – who beat England in the final to win Euro 2020 just eight months ago – have failed to reach the World Cup for the second successive tournament and Southgate admitted his surprise at the Azzurri’s confirmed absence in Qatar.
Speaking ahead of England’s friendly fixture with Switzerland tomorrow evening, Southgate spoke on the qualification action over the past few days.
“I watched Portugal and Italy really but Robert Page has done a brilliant job [with Wales] but they have still got another step to take,” he told his pre-match press conference.
“It was a big surprise [that Italy didn’t win]. That is where our players did so well to recover from the final and play well in the Autumn. There were fine margins in three or for of their games and that’s football.”
Southgate has included new faces in his squad for the fixtures with the Swiss and Ivory Coast, including first-time call-ups Kyle Walker-Peters and Tyrick Mitchell.
The duo are involved after a number of absences at full-back and Southgate has confirmed there will be debuts during the upcoming internationals.
He also discussed the importance of versatility in his squad, with Walker-Peters having impressed in both full-back positions for Southampton this season.
“We will have debuts this week for sure. Great moments for those players and we will always want to put them in with experienced players.
“The key is being excellent in one position. You never know how adaptable someone is to playing two or three positions.
“We have a few players that can do that, it always gives you another opportunity to be selected.”