ENGLAND began their World Cup qualification campaign by sailing to a comfortable 5-0 win over San Marino last night. San Marino are the worst National team in the world according to FIFA World rankings. This was the start of the truncated journey to Qatar 2022 and while the Germany team joined Norway the previous night in protesting the treatment of migrant workers in the Gulf state, England took the knee before the game instead.
Also, before kick-off, everyone in the stadium paid homage the former players and coaches who had recently died. Including Glenn Roader, Frank Worthington, Colin Bell and Peter Swan.
Manager Gareth Southgate named a heavily rotated side for this fixture, so it was hard to take anything from this match going into the delayed European Championships this summer. Nick Pope started in goal due to the injury to usual number one Jordan Pickford. John Stones started in defence for the first time since November 2019, as well as an inexperienced midfield two of Kalvin Phillips and James Ward-Prowse, who would go on to score his first England goal.
In attack, Jesse Lingard made his first England appearance since July 2019 after impressing since joining West Ham on loan in January. Dominic-Calvert-Lewin started up front, before going onto scoring his third and fourth goal for his country. Raheem Sterling captained the side in Harry Kane’s absence, Conor Coady ended the game with the armband as Sterling was substituted.
On the bench was Exeter-born Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins, who come on to make his England debut and to score his first goal. Second-half substitute Jude Bellingham became England’s youngest player in a World Cup qualifier at 17 years and nine months.
England missed a lot of chances in the first half including attempts from Calvert-Lewin as well as Manchester City teammates John Stones and Raheem Sterling. Mason Mount was arguably England’s best player in the first half, creating a massive 8 chances. The last player to create that many chances in a World Cup qualifier was Spain legend Xavi in 2008, and he did it in only 45 minutes.
England took the lead through James Ward-Prowse’s neat finish after a lovely pass to him from Ben Chilwell. The other full-back and Chelsea teammate of Chilwell, Reece James then put a cross on a plate for Calvert-Lewin who headed England into a 2-0 lead. Mason Mount made it a hattrick of assists for Chelsea players as his pass to Raheem Sterling led to a sensational solo goal by the captain.
England went into the break with a 3-0 lead; however, it could have been a lot more. After the game, Southgate said: “If we were being ultracritical, we should have scored more, but we also have to say their goalkeeper had a fantastic game.”
It was a fast start to the second half, in the 52nd minute Jesse Lingard played a tidy ball across the face of goal to Calvert-Lewin who tapped home. San Marino goalkeeper Elia Benedettini continued his fine form by making a great save from Ward-Prowse’s freekick.
The game was well and truly put to bed when Ollie Watkins scored on his debut in the 83rd minute, after an assist from Phil Foden.
Despite the best efforts of the San Marino goalkeeper, England won very comfortably. The three lions have now played San Marino six times with a huge aggregate score of 37-1.
England have two more games over the next week, the first against Albania at Arena Kombëtare in Tirana on Sunday, before heading back to Wembley to play Robert Lewandowski and Poland on Wednesday.
England team player ratings:
Nick Pope: 6
Reece James: 7
Conor Coady: 7
John Stones: 7
Ben Chilwell: 8
James Ward- Prowse: 8
Kalvin Phillips: 6
Mason Mount: 8
Jesse Lingard: 8
Raheem Sterling: 7
Tyrone Mings: 6
Kieran Trippier: 6
Jude Bellingham: 7
Ollie Watkins: 8
MOTM: Jesse Lingard
PHOTO: Jesse Lingard takes on San Marino players during a man of the match display.