Ollie Watkins puts hosts ahead in friendly at Wembley

Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s football coverage as England take on Australia at Wembley Stadium for the first time in more than seven years.

England come into the game off the back of a mixed set of results, having drawn 1-1 against Ukraine in August before rallying to win 3-1 away against Scotland, with Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, and Harry Kane all getting onto the scoresheet.

Tonight may only be a friendly, but Gareth Southgate’s side will look to use the fixture to gather some much needed momentum ahead of next week’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy where they can seal their place at next summer’s tournament.

The last time these two sides met was at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light in 2016 when England, under the command of Roy Hodgson, secured a 2-1 victory thanks to a 75th-minute winner from Wayne Rooney.

The England squad may be dazzling with more star quality these days, but besides a smattering of goal-fests against second rate opposition, they have a checkered record against top-tier sides over the last season and will need to hit their stride soon if they are to fulfill their potential at the Euros next year. 

“It’s one of the great sporting rivalries and if Australia have any sniff that we’re not taking the game seriously, then we will be in trouble,” Southgate said. “We have good players and we need to give people opportunities to show what they can do.”

Australia, meanwhile, will be hoping for a change of fortune having not managed a win in their last three fixtures. 

Speaking ahead of tonight’s match, Australia manager Graham Arnold said: “I know one thing is that [the players] will run until they drop, the energy will be there and they’ll put in the performance of their lives.

 “We aim to win. We’re not going out there to lose or draw the game, we’re going out there to win the game.”

However, any excitement in the build-up to tonight’s clash has been eclipsed by off-field controversy over the Football Association’s refusal to illuminate the Wembley arch in recognition of the Hamas terror attack against Israel.

Instead, players are due to wear black armbands while a period of silence will be observed to remember the victims of the conflict.

The decision not to illuminate the arch was slammed by Britain’s Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer, who posted a message on X to say that she was “extremely disappointed”.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board (IAB)  Deji Davies has come under fire for Tweets dating back to 2013 in which he advocated boycotting Isreael as hosts of the European Under-21 Championship.

Addressing the FA’s decision, Southgate offered his “thoughts and feelings to everybody who has suffered” but said “whatever decision they came to would have been criticised in one way or another”.


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