England can move a step closer to qualification for next year’s World Cup in Qatar when they host Hungary at Wembley on Tuesday.
Gareth Southgate’s side cannot secure their place with a victory, but with second-placed Albania and third-place Poland facing each other, they could potentially extend their lead at the top of Group I, with only the winners guaranteed to qualify.
Southgate’s men made it six wins from seven with a 5-0 thrashing of Andorra on Saturday evening and now meet the Hungarians.
And the visitors are no pushover, giving Germany, France and Portugal a run for their money at Euro 2020, but who were thumped 4-0 by the Three Lions on home soil last month.
We caught up with Kunal Sapat from England Block 109 on his return from yet another away trip to capture the mood among Three Lions fans ahead of what could be a tricky test for Southgate’s side.
You’ve literally just arrived back from the game in Andorra, so what is so special about following England?
“Travelling the world and visiting so many different countries is the best feeling in the world.
“You meet so many different people, visit new places and following the England team away is brilliant.”
Nearly three months on from England’s Euro 2020 run, how would you reflect on the tournament? Was it a success or a missed opportunity?
“Looking back at the tournament, it was a success in the sense that we managed to improve on previous tournaments and reach a major tournament final for the first time since 1966.
“We had tough games along the way too, and beating Germany along the way was the best feeling.
“However, there was also a missed opportunity. Having come so close to winning the tournament, I feel that we just missed the best chance we had in years and that is going to haunt us for some time.”
Gareth Southgate came under fire for the final loss amongst some supporters, but where do you stand on him? Is he the right man for the job?
“I still stand by Gareth.
“Yes he has made some mistakes with some choices in big games such as the final against Italy and perhaps also back in 2018 against Croatia in the World Cup Semi Final.
“Both times, I felt we could have done more to kill the games off earlier. However, I feel he is the right man to lead England to glory in Qatar, with some improvements to be made along the way.
“He has the right set up, he has created a good feeling around the England National team and he has already done better where other managers have failed in the past.”
How would you assess Southgate’s England tenure as a whole?
“Southgate has changed the feeling around the England team, has shown improvement in tournaments and has already done better in areas other managers have let us down.
“He has made mistakes of course, but he has the right set up and improvements are always being made. Therefore there is no reason why he cannot succeed with the team in Qatar next year.”
Having followed England away for years, where does this England side rank for you in comparison to previous years – both in terms of quality and the relationship between players and fans?
“Having followed England for years, I would say we have a talented range of young players who whilst they may not have always ranked as highly as previous ‘golden generation’ of the 2004 and 2006 squads, this team feels more together.
“It seems that there is a real buzz about this current England side and they seem to be more gelled in comparison to previous England sides, and that is why the current side has a better chance of success in my opinion.
“The players currently and the fans all seem to have a great feeling at the moment.”
Barring a late collapse, England look set to secure World Cup qualification – is there anything you would like to see differently from Southgate and his side heading into the Qatar tournament?
“Heading to Qatar, I would just like to see improvements in the big games.
“We need to work on some aspects of the game and Southgate needs to be braver on some occasions.”
Can England win in Qatar if they qualify and has Euro 2020 given England a platform to build upon?
“Overall, I think we will have a good chance next year to go all the way and build on what we did at Euro 2020.”
England Block 109 are a group of supporters who are seeking to improve the atmosphere at Wembley while also carrying out fundraising draws and organising coach travel for England games. Find out more here.
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