England sealed their spot in the Qatar 2022 World Cup with a thumping 10-0 win over San Marino on Monday night, led by captain Harry Kane’s four-goal haul.
Harry Maguire got his second goal of the international break to become England’s highest scoring centre-back ever, before Kane scored two penalties and two open play goals either side of a San Marino own-goal in the first-half.
Conor Gallagher became the 50th debutant under Gareth Southgate as a half-time substitute before goals from Emile Smith Rowe, Tyrone Mings, Tammy Abraham and Bukayo Saka wrapped up a dominant display.
It’s not a result that was ever in doubt, with San Marino earning just one win in 187 previous games and they’ve now conceded 30 goals since they last scored one.
Kane’s four-goal haul moved him level with Gary Lineker on 48 England goals, seven games quicker than the legendary striker managed it in. It means he is now just five goals behind Wayne Rooney’s all-time record, and six away from breaking it.
He also broke the record for the most goals in a calendar year for England, moving to 16 for 2021 with his strikes.
But aside from the record, the game simply stood just to give some other players extra minutes to impress Southgate ahead of the tournament next winter.
There are only three more squad meet-ups between now and the tournament starting next December, so Southgate will have limited time to see new faces performing within his setup.
The likes of Smith Rowe, Gallagher, Abraham and Bellingham all did themselves no harm with their performances, but their places are far from guaranteed with the likes of Mason Greenwood and Callum Hudson-Odoi also in the picture for future call-ups.
For Southgate, the plan now is to build his squad in his head for the World Cup and try to keep an eye on those players’ form while also coming up with how he wants to play during the winter tournament and start to implement those plans.
England have made it official nice and early, unlike Portugal and Italy who will be part of the playoffs to make it so some plaudits are deserved.
Now they need to make sure they’re not just there to make up the numbers, and that starts as soon as possible.