England have qualified for the World Cup and Lithuania are out of the running for second place and a route into the playoffs. That means their qualifying fixture in Vilnius on Sunday is a dead rubber. England were garbage against Slovenia but should beat these opponents in their sleep. These easy matches in qualifying are no preparation for the real thing and England do not have a hope in the World Cup.
Gareth Southgate seems to be a sensible man but he would have got more respect if he had admitted the effort against Slovenia was not good enough. It was appropriate that the winning goal from Harry Kane dribbled over the line. Joe Hart was named as England’s man of the match in a home fixture against a team at number 55 in the rankings when England are 15th. Eric Dyer’s surname is totally appropriate!
You could look at the positives and say England have qualified for the World Cup Finals for the 15th time and now not missed the tournament since 1994. Southgate is being to look like a clone of Graham Taylor. There was zero motivation from the sidelines as England produced turgid football against Slovenia. Hard working midfielders who have no vision will not get England anywhere next summer.
Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker are playing brilliant football at Manchester City so why when they put on an England shirt do they look like non-league players? Southgate probably spent days before this match with clever-dick tactics but football is about joy and not a miserable two hours for viewers at the end of a working day. England are not suddenly going to be any good when the opposition is stronger and I wouldn’t back them at 20/1 with your money to win the World Cup next year.
England have played Lithuania three times and won each match to nil, scoring nine goals in the process. Lithuania are playing for pride because they are way off the pace in the qualifying process. They are ranked at 120 in the world which puts them below Faroe Islands and Luxembourg. This has now become a meaningless fixture but if England lose it will be Iceland in Euro 2016 all over again. The national team need an inspirational man manager and not a civil servant.
Scotland need a point against Slovenia to clinch second spot as long as Slovakia don’t beat Malta by more than five goals. If they lose their last match in the group and the Slovkas pick up three points Scotland move down to third place and miss out again. There have been four fixtures between the nations and Scotland have won two and drawn two. Scotland beat Slovenia 1-0 in the reverse tie at Hampden park in March.
Northern Ireland are safe in second place behind Germany in Group C which means their last match in qualifying away to Norway is another dread rubber. Norway can finish third in the group at best and the tie is all about motivation and home advantage could be key. The fixture between Wales and Republic of Ireland in Cardiff could be a massive showdown but the implications are very much dependent on results of their matches on Thursday night.
If you were being kind you would say job done for England but they were playing in a very forgiving group. They will face tougher challenges in Russia next year but don’t expect miracles. Southgate could be gone after another miserable effort when the matches mean most.