A handsome 5-0 win over Andorra with a largely second-string side saw the Three Lions keep a four-point cushion at the top of Group I with three games left to play, starting tonight against a Hungary side they thumped away from home last month.
Even victory won’t quite be enough to book their spot at next year’s tournament but England are unlikely to be short of motivation after the abuse they received in a hostile environment in Budapest.
Harry Kane was among the goalscorers in that 4-0 win and the England captain will be aiming to continue his incredible scoring streak in qualifiers this evening, having scored in 15 in a row dating back to 2017.
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Gareth Southgate has been discussing that attacking selection with ITV…
“We’ve got some very important players like Jordan Henderson but I wanted to look at a different profile.
“We’re intrigued to see Phil and Mason in those attacking midfield roles. It’s an exciting front line and we should have more of the ball. We might be a little lighter without it, but that’s the balance we’ve got to find.”
Mount feeling recharged after injury absence
Mason Mount is back in the starting lineup for England tonight and after a little spell out of the Chelsea side because of injury, he believes the break may have done him some good off the back of a mammoth season.
“I feel like now, obviously to miss a week when I was at Chelsea with a little injury, to get back and be in the England squad that little break makes you feel a bit more energetic and gives you that little boost.
“Even though you don’t want to miss a game – I don’t want to miss any game – it does help sometimes to kind of take a step back and let yourself recover, let your body recover, and then you’re back at it.”
Southgate set for contract talks
Gareth Southgate is set for talks with the FA over the possibility to extending his contract beyond next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
The FA are keen to tie the 51-year-old down, given the progress the national team has made under his stewardship over the last five years.
“I said last month that I had asked to put that further back into the autumn, really, as I just wanted to focus on these games and, also, to give the time to make the right decision,” he said.
“I am constant. After the Euros there is a huge amount of emotion and fatigue from going through a tournament like that.
“I want to make sure that I am making the right decisions for the right reasons. We have happily parked that for the time being.
“The discussions are very much open and Mark [Bullingham, FA chief executive] has been really, really supportive, which has been hugely appreciated by myself. But I have really felt this piece, of getting the country to the World Cup, was the priority. We can look at everything in the next few weeks.”
Fancy a reminder of how England did it last time?
Hungary team news
Hungary XI: Gulacsi, Lang, Kecskes, Szalai, Nego, Adam Nagy, Schafer, Zsolt Nagy, Sallai, Szoboszlai, Schon.
Subs: Varga, Szabo, Nikolic, Gazdag, Vecsei, Holender, Bogdan, Bolla, Salloi, Balogh.
Foden, Mount start in attacking side
So, Gareth Southgate makes the expected wholesale changes to his England side this evening – nine of them in all.
John Stones and Phil Foden are the two men to keep their places from the Andorra win, the former partnered by Tyrone Mings at centre-back and the latter joining Mason Mount and Declan Rice in midfield in what looks an adventurous lineup from the England boss.
England team news
England XI: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Mings, Shaw, Rice, Foden, Mount, Grealish, Sterling, Kane
Subs: Johnstone, Ramsdale, Tomori, Trippier, Chilwell, Coady, Ward-Prowse, Henderson, Saka, Sancho, Abraham, Watkins
Standard Sport prediction
England defied a hostile atmosphere to comfortably beat Hungary in their own backyard last month and having rested most of their star names in Andorra, there’s little reason to think a similar outcome isn’t on the cards here.
Plain sailing in Andorra
England’s trip to Andorra got off to a lively start last week when a section of the broadcast gantry at the hosts’ stadium caught fire the day before the game, but things went much more smoothly on the (plastic) pitch for Southgate’s men as a largely second-string side put the minnows to the sword.
The returning Tammy Abraham got himself on the scoresheet, as did Bukayo Saka, James Ward-Prowse and Ben Chilwell before Jack Grealish came off the bench to seal a 5-0 thrashing.
Hungary sanctioned after abuse
That aforementioned abuse put a sour note on an excellent away performance from England, and was made all the more frustrating by the fact that Hungary had already been hit with a stadium ban by Uefa over a number of incidents at the Euros.
Last month’s qualifier fell instead under the jurisdiction of Fifa, meaning a capacity crowd was allowed in, but world football’s governing body subsequently acted, imposing a two-match stadium ban – one of which is suspended – as well as a fine of 200,000 Swiss francs.
That meant the weekend’s crucial qualifier against Albania was played behind-closed-doors and a 1-0 defeat all-but ended Hungary’s hopes of qualification.
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