Although England might have not been able to officially book their spot at next year’s World Cup finals on Friday night, they did take a massive step towards being crowned Group I champions.
Calling on a response following last month’s stalemate against Hungary, Gareth Southgate’s squad landed a thumping 5-0 win against Albania at Wembley after a real first-half flurry.
Watching a struggling Harry Maguire power home England’s opener after just eight minutes, the Three Lions certainly laid down another qualifying marker as Jordan Henderson and their skipper wrapped up an easy night in the capital.
Now needing just a single point from their trip to San Marino in three days time, we have taken a look at the key talking points after Friday’s hometown romp.
Kane breaks more international records
Managing to muster just a single Premier League goal since opening the 2021/22 campaign with Tottenham, it is no secret that Harry Kane has found himself come under real scrutiny over the past months.
Going public earlier in the week as he spoke about his own lacklustre start to the season, the 28-year-old certainly laid down another international marker on route to breaking even more Three Lions records.
With some even speculating that Kane could have been dropped after his sluggish Premier League form, he instead looked like a player with the bit between his teeth as he headed home his first goal from point-blank range just nine minutes after Maguire’s opener.
Once again underlining why he claimed his third top-flight Golden Boot last season, the England skipper didn’t have to wait long to add to his account as he thundered his left-footed effort past Thomas Strakosha.
With Southgate only filled with praise for Kane’s display on Friday, there was time for the Spurs talisman to make more international history as he completed his perfect hat-trick with a stunning acrobatic effort in first-half injury time.
Becoming the highest scoring English player in competitive contests, he also became the first player in over 100 years to score 10 goals in more than one calendar year for the Three Lions.
Southgate gets his statement
While many knew that it would take something remarkable for England not to book their spot at next year’s World Cup finals, Southgate had made it clear prior to kick-off that he was seeking a statement from his side.
Last seen signing off October’s international break with a 1-1 draw against Hungary on home soil, the England boss was calling on his side to entertain on what was a sellout night at Wembley.
Although Southgate’s side might have failed to mathematically book their spot out of Group I on Friday, they know that just a single point against European whipping boys San Marino in three days time will be enough to finish the job.
Having to watch as the likes of Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford all withdraw from international duties, Southgate’s decision to revert back to a five at the back certainly paid off.
With the in-form Reece James putting in a sublime delivery for Maguire’s opener early in the first-half, there was also a chance for England’s 51-year-old boss to hand out a first Three Lions cap to one of England’s emerging stars.
Coming off the bench for the final 13 minutes, Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe will be hoping for a first start when they travel to San Marino on Monday.
Albania can’t find their miracle
While a stellar three-match Group I winning run earlier in the year might have really had some in Albania’s camp dreaming of what would have been a stunning late charge to a top-two finish, the Eagles really saw their last chance go up in smoke.
Shocking many across Group I as they secured back-to-back victories against Hungary on their qualifying adventure, Friday’s guests put in a surprise performance at Wembley as they decided to attack England from the start.
In truth, while Albania might have known that they were searching for a real miracle in north London, there is no doubt that their late 1-0 defeat at the hands of second-place Poland last month was really the final nail in their hopes of securing a maiden spot at a World Cup finals.
Blown away at Wembley after England’s first-half romp, Albania were handed a golden chance as Myrto Uzuni pounced on Kyle Walker’s under-hit pass back before being denied by Jordan Pickford with the scoreline still just at 1-0.
Nevertheless, heavily outplayed on foreign soil, Edoardo Reja‘a side will simply be looking to sign off their qualifying run when they host Andorra in midweek.
England: Pickford, Walker, Maguire, Stones, Chilwell, James, Phillips, Henderson, Sterling, Foden, Kane
Subs: Grealish, Abraham, Bellingham, Alexander-Arnold, Smith-Rowe
Albania: Strakosha, Ismajli, Kumbulla, Veseli, Bare, Trashi, Gjasula, Hysaj, Uzuni, Bajrami, Cikalleshi
Subs: Dermaku, Laci, Mihaj, Ramadani
Goals: Maguire 9′, Kane 18′, 33′, 45’+1′, Henderson 28′
Yellow Cards: Ismajli, Gjasula, Laci, Cikalleshi
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Felix Zwayer
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