• Russia have now failed to win any of their past seven games • Manchester United’s Pogba scores with stunning free-kick
Kylian Mbappé’s double dealt another blow to the World Cup preparations of the hosts Russia, as France claimed a 3-1 friendly win in St Petersburg.
Mbappé and Paul Pogba struck either side of half-time to put France in control and, although Fyodor Smolov pulled one back for Russia, Mbappé’s late second ensured a deserved win for Didier Deschamps’s team.
It’s now Switzerland 5-0 Panama, with 40 minutes still to play. Gavranovic the scorer and you’d have to say Panama’s centre-backs have had an absolute shocker tonight – they’ve been turned time and again. I’m enjoying the Panamanian commentator though – he greets each goal with the requisite “GOOOOOOOOOOOL”, but quickly appends a genuinely pained, groaning “NOOOOO! NOOOOO! NOOOO!” that makes me want to give him a cuddle.
If a deeper dive into England v Italy is what you’re after, there’s no better man to provide the oxygen than Scott Murray:
And here’s some early breaking team news from our man Dominic Fifield:
Dele Alli is expected to be among the England substitutes against Italy with Gareth Southgate set to start this evening’s friendly with the same forward-thinking midfield combination of Jesse Lingard and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
England welcome the fathers of catenaccio to Wembley tonight. Italy enter a bizarro world, in which the other team have the stellar defence: England haven’t conceded a goal in 537 minutes of play, since Stanislav Lobotka scored early on for Slovakia in a World Cup qualifier last September that Gareth Southgate’s side went on to win anyway. That run’s subsequently featured draws with world champions Germany and five-time World Cup winners Brazil, plus a first victory in the Netherlands since 1969. England are in a good mental space right now.
Italy … well, not so much. Having failed to qualify for the World Cup finals for only the second time in their history, it’s a struggle to get going right now. In their first match since failing to get past Sweden in the qualification play-offs, they went down meekly in Manchester last Friday, 2-0 against an Argentina side who didn’t need to call on Lionel Messi. They’ve also had to deal with the devastating loss of defender Davide Astori, the poor young man having passed away three weeks ago. Everything in proportion, of course, but the Azzurri could do with a little something to smile about again.
The national team of the Netherlands finally seem to be getting their act together. It’s been a hell of a struggle for them over the years, as a quick flick through history illustrates: an 8-2 loss to England in 1946, a 4-0 loss to France last year, while roughly in between times they lost a World Cup finals match against Scotland, a result which leads The Fiver to assume they couldn’t have been any good in the seventies either. But on Monday they swatted aside Portugal 3-0 in Geneva. Wow! That result also puts England in a good light, because having beaten the Dutch last Friday, simple playground logic dictates that Gareth Southgate’s side must be at least four times better than the reigning European champions. At least. Stands to reason, don’t it. The World Cup’s pretty much in the bag. England! Give us your bike.