England’s Southgate says playing in nearly empty stadium is ’embarrassing’ | Soccer News

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WOLVERHAMPTON (UK): Gareth Southgate said on Friday it was “embarrassing” that his England side would have to play Italy in front of a small crowd at Molineux this weekend as punishment for fan violence during the Euro 2020 final.
England received a two-match stadium ban, with one game suspended, after ticketless fans made their way to Wembley to watch their loss to Italy on penalties last year.
Due to the disorder, there will only be around 3,000 fans in attendance to watch the second leg against Italy in the Nations League on Saturday.
The crowd will largely be made up of children under the age of 14 as, under UEFA rules, they are allowed free access to matches played behind closed doors.
“If it’s an embarrassment, it’s for England as a country,” said the England manager.
“A lot of the people who caused the problems, I’m not sure, were football fans. We’ve talked about it enough, we talked about it after the final and when the punishment was first given.
“What I will say is that the vast majority of our fans who traveled to Germany (for this week’s 1-1 draw) did brilliantly.
“Big thanks to them because maybe people thought something different but there was a big majority that was a credit.”
England are halfway through a run of four Nations League group games at the end of a grueling season.
They were beaten 1-0 in Hungary before drawing 1-1 in Germany on Tuesday thanks to Harry Kane’s late penalty.
Southgate say all of their players are fit but changes are likely against Roberto Mancini’s side.
The Italy manager, whose side failed to qualify for the World Cup, said he was disappointed the teams weren’t playing to a full house at Wolverhampton.
“We would have preferred to play with supporters,” he said. “Football without fans is not football and is not good for an important game like this. I agree with him (Southgate).”
He added: “It’s very difficult for me, after a year without supporters (due to the coronavirus), to play again without supporters, it’s very difficult. It’s better because football is more beautiful with supporters. .
“It will be a very different game because we are playing here and behind closed doors.”
Italy drew with Germany and beat Hungary this month at the top of Group A3.
It will be the first time England and Italy have met since the Azzurri emerged victorious in the Euro 2020 final, but Mancini doesn’t believe Southgate’s side are ready for revenge.
“I don’t think it’s about revenge. In the future maybe, but not now,” he said.
“It’s a different game in the Nations League. For them it’s important to try something new for the World Cup and maybe England will change a lot of players.”
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