A late penalty by Federico Macheda gave Italy a friendly win against UEFA European Under-21 Championship finalists England in Empoli. Having taken over a team that failed to reach June's finals in Denmark, Italy coach Ciro Ferrara fielded a side eligible for 2013 qualifying but they kept a depleted England lineup comfortably at bay and struck on 88 minutes when Ben Mee fouled Niccolò Giannetti, earning himself a red card, and home captain Macheda the chance to win the match from eleven metres.
England will hope to regroup for their remaining friendlies away at finals hosts Denmark on 24 March and at home to Iceland four days later before facing Spain, Ukraine and the Czech Republic in their group from 12 June. England manager Stuart Pearce, who was already without six defenders in the shape of Martin Kelly, Kieran Gibbs, Micah Richards, Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker and James Tomkins, lost Jack Rodwell to injury after 11 minutes, replacing him with Jack Cork. With England still adapting, Italy created the best opportunity of the first half and Frank Fielding had to tip away a shot by Gianvito Misuraca at full stretch.
Both coaches made changes at the break but Italy remained the more dangerous of the two sides and Macheda, currently on loan to UC Sampdoria from Manchester United FC, found space on the left only to find the side netting. with his shot. At the other end substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was unable to find enough power in his shot to beat Carlo Pinsoglio, who was also twice tested by Scott Sinclair as England finished strongly. However, Macheda was to have the last word.