UPDATE: England won Monday’s game against San Marino 10-0, securing their qualification for the World Cup in Qatar.
Gareth Southgate’s England squad have all but guaranteed their qualification in Qatar’s winter world cup next year after a sensational 5-0 win against Albania on Friday.
England secured their victory with five goals in the first half.
Albania defended passionately throughout the first half, and initially looked like they could stunt England’s scoring chances. England kept possession of the ball but were stuck in their own half in the first few minutes.
But Albania’s aggressiveness got the worst of them. Not only did they get three yellow cards, but Klaus Gjasula’s foul on Harry Kane earned England the corner which led to their first goal – an effortless strike from Harry Maguire.
The misery for Albania did not stop there. Kane equalled the late Jimmy Greaves’ scoring record with his hat trick. Kane was surrounded by Albanian defenders each time, but managed to chip, header and bicycle kick three into the back of the net.
Jordan Henderson also managed to score a goal under heavy cover from defenders scrambling to stop him.
England showed some cracks which could have been exploited by stronger teams. Sloppy defending from Walker nearly allowed a goal from Myrto Uzuni when he went one-on-one with goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Ultimately, Uzuni was too far out when he took his shot, and England was able to maintain their clean sheet.
England can now come first in their group, and qualify for Qatar, with a win or a draw against San Marino. The latter last won a match when David Beckham played for Real Madrid.
But a pair of 1-1 draws against Poland and Hungary meant the Three Lions were in danger if they couldn’t defeat their opponents at Wembley, as Poland are only 3 points behind.
“We needed to get this result today,” said England captain Harry Kane. “We had a little point to prove after the last game when we didn’t perform as well as we should have.”
The Polish side were almost guaranteed to beat Andorra when Ricard Betriu was given a red card in the first minute. They won 4-1.
Reports say that Southgate is set to renew his contract past the next Euros. Kane said he and the team would be happy for him to do this.
“We want him to stay as long as possible,” he said.
Southgate refused to confirm the speculation.
“We need a point, we’re not done,” said Southgate. “It would be wrong for my attention to be anywhere other than that.”