It was a night when it was prudent to consult the record books early. What was England’s biggest victory? Because it was in real danger of being overhauled as Gareth Southgate’s side cut San Marino to shreds. Ultimately, the 13-0 victory over Ireland of 1882 would survive, but it was a loss that even San Marino, the worst team in the international game, will remember for a very long time.
There had been a blackout hours before kick-off at the Olympic Stadium here, plunging everything into darkness, but it was replaced by an impressive surge, with Harry Kane inevitably leading the charge.
The England captain, who had begged Southgate to throw him and made his wish come true, plundered four times in 15 minutes before halftime, meaning he rose to 48 international goals – five short of the record for Wayne Rooney. On the back of his hat-trick against Albania, he became only the fourth English player to score three or more goals in consecutive appearances as he established a new goal mark in a calendar year with 16 .
There was a moment with about 10 minutes before the big screen briefly stopped showing the time, which left those in attendance wondering if this was a ploy to stop the displays. things earlier. It was so painful for San Marino and it was a struggle to accommodate the names of all of the English goal scorers.
England were still going to win to confirm their direct qualification for the World Cup final in Qatar next year, but that was another matter. There were the first English goals for Emile Smith Rowe and Tyrone Mings and others for Harry Maguire, Tammy Abraham and Bukayo Saka, with an own goal.
Southgate had wanted to make a statement with his roster, showing he was serious about including Harrys, Maguire and Kane, but it was the 3-4-3 roster that spoke the loudest. Since the 2018 World Cup, the coach has tended to use a three-way return only against the bigger teams, whereas England would not necessarily dominate the ball and as such there had been a surprise when he did so for the 5-0 at home last Friday. defeat Albania. It was Southgate overtaking on the approach. If he was up against San Marino it was easy to feel he was here to stay for Qatar.
Maguire has been productive in front of goal for England this year and he started with his fifth of 2021, a meaty header from Phil Foden’s corner, as the Motherwell tribute shirts of San Marino obligingly parted.
England’s superiority all over the pitch was so pronounced it was almost uncomfortable. Saka, the left winger, who played as an auxiliary winger, gave San Marino right winger Fabio Tomassini a lead of one meter and emerged two ahead after a short sprint. He’s played with everyone he’s come up against. Elsewhere early in the race, Maguire made a clear header error, sending him to José Hirsch. He simply leaned over to retrieve it, as if taking candy from a baby.
It was easy to fear the worst for San Marino, especially when VAR made a surprise intervention midway through the first half. Foden had approached with a cut of the scissors and no one inside the stadium had noticed anything untoward. But the all-seeing eye had spotted the ball snapping in Dante Rossi’s hand. “Fuck VAR,” shouted the crowd. And it was the England fans. Kane climbed up the center for 3-0.
England’s second had come when Filippo Fabbri deflected an effort from Saka into his own net and Kane was in no mood to show any mercy. It just isn’t part of her makeup. Smith Rowe, working well in the inner left channel, cut Kane down to lead a first shot in the far corner and it was almost incongruous to see Aaron Ramsdale, in his early days, forced to make a scrambling stop to refuse. Nicola Nanni in the 33rd minute.
Kane’s second penalty was for a second handball, this one much more evident by Alessandro D’Addario, and he duly hit the kick into the roof of the net, while his fourth was charming. He danced in heavy congestion inside the area and appeared to freeze San Marino defenders one by one with his quick feet. The arrival was guided to the far corner.
Southgate made changes at halftime, reconfiguring themselves to 4-4-2 with Conor Gallagher on his central midfielder debut, and the question was whether England would bend the knife. It certainly looked like a bad omen for San Marino when Kane stepped back as the halftime tunes were still ringing.
On top of everything else, it was England’s physique that stood out. It was on another level, with Kalvin Phillips, for example, winning his challenges with consummate ease. The San Marino players bounced off him until he was retired at halftime. It was men against boys, pros against non-leaguers – and at least a few rungs at that level.
One of the halftime changes Abraham threw up a good chance before coming back nicely for Smith Rowe to come home seventh and every English player wanted to participate in the act. Gallagher should have scored from close range and, after Rossi was sent off for pulling him out, Mings met Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free kick for the eighth.
Jude Bellingham had a goal ruled out by VAR before Abraham and Saka made their mark. The only relief for San Marino was the final whistle.