Having scored goals for fun throughout their qualification campaign for Eoro 2020 England have certainly been the serial entertainers of Group A and it’s unlikely they will approach things differently against Kosovo on Sunday, despite already securing their place at next summer’s finals.
Gareth Southgate’s men have scored 33 goals in their 7 Group A games, with a 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro on Thursday night assuring they top the table whatever happens in their final match this weekend.
This followed a 6-0 thumping of Bulgaria, a game which was overshadowed by racial abuse from the terraces, as England rallied superbly after something of shock 2-1 defeat to the Czech Republic last month.
Those results mean that England have won six of their seven qualifiers with an aggregate score of 32-6, clocking up wins of 4-0 and 5-0 followed by 6-0 and 7-0, a series of results which means Southgate’s side go into Euro 2020 next summer as 5.50* second favourites.
Harry Kane bagged a hat-trick on Thursday in that 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro as England fielded their youngest since side since 1959 as the manager consistently keeps faith in young prospects in the hope it will reap rewards.
“We feel the team against Montenegro was extremely young, the squad is young,” the England boss explained. “We’ve got to get the balance right with that, but these, in most cases, are our best players we think.
“Although next summer is going to be before a lot of them peak, we can still be hugely competitive and our challenge is to be able to compete, as we found a way to compete in Russia, with a squad that’s very exciting.”
With third place in Group A already guaranteed, Kosovo know they will definitely feature in the playoffs in March so this game is much as a dead rubber for the hosts than it is for England, though if their last meeting back in September is anything to go by, it could still be entertaining.
Kosovo took an early lead at St Mary’s and, although the Three Lions raced to a 5-1 lead at the break, the visitors scored two more in the second half in a game which England eventually won 5-3 and will no doubt provide a far tougher test than either Bulgaria or Montenegro.
After something of a dismal World Cup campaign, Kosovo won three friendlies in-a-row and having won four and drawn two of their Nations League games to top Group 3 and they’ve taken that fine form into the European Championship qualifiers.
The loss to England was only Kosovo’s second defeat in the qualifiers to date with their other defeat in Group A coming against the Czech republic last Thursday to end any feint hopes they had of automatic qualification.
But Southgate has insisted that England will not be taking their foot off the gas as they aim to be one of the top seeds for the group stage draw while welcoming Raheem Sterling back into their ranks following the well documented training ground bust-up with Joe Gomez.
There were eight goals when these two teams met in September and after the Three Lions scored seven on Thursday, another goal-fest could be on the cards, and who would back against Sterling, who will no doubt be desperate to prove a point, being the first scorer at 5.00*?
*Odds subject to change
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