SERRAVALLE, San Marino – Japan Today
Gareth Southgate said England’s mentality was the key to qualifying for the World Cup in record-breaking style as Harry Kane scored four times in a 10-0 demolition of San Marino on Monday.
Needing a draw from their last Group I qualifier to reach next year’s tournament in Qatar, England went goal crazy as they scored 10 in a single game for the first time since a 1964 friendly against the United States.
The result ranked as the Three Lions’ biggest ever victory in a competitive match.
Harry Maguire put Southgate’s side in front early on before Filippo Fabbri’s own goal doubled England’s lead.
England captain Kane took centre-stage after that, scoring four before the break to rewrite the record books.
Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe notched his first senior international goal in his maiden start.
Tyrone Mings headed his first England goal after San Marino’s Dante Rossi was sent off, before Tammy Abraham and Bukayo Saka completed their country’s record-breaking win.
Kane has scored 16 goals in 2021 for England, setting a calendar year record for the Three Lions as he surpassed the 12-goal tallies of George Hilsdon in 1908 and Dixie Dean in 1927.
The 28-year-old moved level with Gary Lineker on 48 England goals, with only Bobby Charlton (49) and Wayne Rooney (53) above him.
“Harry is a phenomenal goalscorer. If we left him on another half an hour he might have got it (the record),” Southgate said.
“We would have had Wayne Rooney’s family on the phone telling us to get him off!”
Group winners England finished the qualifying campaign unbeaten in their 10 matches.
They have won more games (15), scored more goals (52) and kept more clean sheets (14) in 2021 than in any calendar year in their history.
“The qualification was earned away in Budapest, in Warsaw, in Albania and I’ve got to credit all of our players and staff on a really good year,” Southgate said.
“The mentality, even in a game like tonight, we can’t do anything about the level of the opposition but the way we played was terrific.”
Southgate’s men ended a memorable 2021 on a fitting high note after they reached the Euro 2020 final in July — missing out on a first trophy since 1966 in a painful penalty shoot-out against Italy.
They will head to Qatar in 12 months established as one of the main contenders to win the World Cup.
“Now is a good period to reflect,” Southgate said. “This is a good opportunity for us to look at the past few months, the younger players and the experiences they might need over the next six or seven months before a World Cup.”
England took the lead in the sixth minute against a woeful San Marino team bottom of FIFA’s world rankings.
Phil Foden’s corner reached Maguire and he rose highest to score with a powerful header, making it two goals in two games for the defender.
Maguire’s pass found Saka, who cut in from the left-hand side of the San Marino area and drilled a low shot that deflected in off Fabbri’s out-stretched boot in the 15th minute.
Kane stroked in a 27th-minute penalty after Rossi put his hand up to get the slightest of touches on Foden’s scissor kick.
Kane got his second in the 31st minute, guiding Smith Rowe’s cross into the bottom corner.
Eight minutes later, Kane’s header was blocked by Alessandro D’Addario’s arm and he smashed the resulting spot-kick high into the top corner for his second treble in two games.
Kane grabbed his fourth in the 42nd minute, weaving through the shambolic San Marino defence to slot home.
Smith Rowe got the seventh with a predatory finish in the 58th minute.
After Rossi’s red card for tripping Conor Gallagher, Mings headed home in the 69th minute.
Abraham made it nine in the 78th minute and, with England fans chanting “we want 10”, Saka obliged with a close-range header 60 seconds later.
Italy 0, Northern Ireland 0
Italy will have to get through the play-offs if they are to return to the World Cup after a goalless draw at Northern Ireland in Belfast on Monday allowed Switzerland to pip them on the final day of qualifying.
Roberto Mancini’s European champions, who started the night top of Group C on goal difference, knew that they needed to match the Swiss’ result against Bulgaria if they wanted to qualify directly for next year’s tournament in Qatar.
However, their uninspiring stalemate at Windsor Park and Switzerland’s 4-0 win in Lucerne saw Italy give up first place and the group’s sole guaranteed World Cup spot at the last.
That leaves the Azzurri in the Nov 26 draw for March’s play-offs, from which they famously failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after a miserable aggregate defeat to Sweden.
“Right now it is what it is, we struggle to score goals, we always have control of the play… It’s a shame because the group should have been finished before this match,” Mancini told RAI.
However Mancini insisted he was confident his team would be in Qatar despite a series of underwhelming displays in qualifying since winning Euro 2020.
Italy had won their first three games in March but followed that up with four draws and a thumping of minnows Lithuania — missing a penalty in both of their draws with the Swiss.
“We missed two penalties in the two key matches, that means that we had things under our control, but if you don’t create chances you’re going to find yourself in difficulty,” added Mancini “I have faith, let’s see in March, but we might even win it.”