Ollie Watkins scored with his first shot for England
Qualifying for the 2022 English World Cup began with a predictable routine walk to beating San Marino at Wembley.
The team, which was last in the FIFA world rankings with 210, was never anything but an easy target for England, even with captain Harry Kane, who started on the bench. This was also evident in this one-sided qualification game behind closed doors.
England camped on San Marino territory throughout the game and the only disappointment for coach Gareth Southgate will be the fact that the finish was very poor.
They should have inflicted a much more severe loss on their besieged opponents. The highlight was a late debut goal for Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins after coming on as a substitute.
James Ward-Prowse’s first goal for England, scored by Ben Chilwell’s low cross, gave them the lead on 14 minutes before Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin doubled the lead seven minutes later with a header on a beautiful delivery from Reece James.
Desperate for a goal from the start, Raheem Sterling added the third before break when his shot was deflected off the near post and Calvert-Lewin scored his second goal with an easy finish that Jesse Lingard eight minutes later scored the break.
The Southgate side lost rhythm after four interval substitutions, but Watkins came on with a crisp, low finish to mark his first international with two goals seven minutes after joining Calvert-Lewin.
One San Marino player who emerged with great success was goalkeeper Elia Benedettini, who scored a number of superb saves from Chilwell, Mason Mount, Lingard and Ward-Prowse as England got their expected start to World Cup qualifiers.
England goes through the movements
England was presented statistically as the easiest game in international football and while the points were secured in the expected manner the profit margin could and should have been far more apparent.
They carved out 32-shot openings at will – 15 on target – but those like Sterling and Calvert-Lewin could have improved their targets while Lingard will wonder why he didn’t find the target.
Ward-Prowse will be delighted with his goal while James, who is a serious right-back contender for the Euros, has been a constant threat and source of supply in his 45-minute performance.
Calvert-Lewin’s two goals, albeit beneath a few bad mistakes, will do his confidence good and reinforce his claims of being Kane’s understudy as he continued his smooth transition to England.
Lingard, who has been so impressive since joining West Ham United on loan from Manchester United, showed Southgate what he could do on his first appearance in England since June 2019.
However, he will have been bitterly frustrated not to hit the target while John Stones, as another recalled, had no defensive work to do but should have scored with a chance in the first half that he twisted over the bar from six yards .
Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Conor Coady was also defensively unemployed but there may only have been a hint of Southgate’s opinion on his leadership skills when he was armband for the second half.
This was little more than a confidence-building training exercise that England was 85% owned, almost entirely in half of San Marino.
Burnley’s Nick Pope got the nod in goal but barely touched the ball throughout the game. This was a cap and a clean sheet for this talented goalkeeper, but nothing else.
It’s arrogant to just fire San Marino and say they shouldn’t qualify at that level, but it’s hard to see what England and managers Southgate have learned from that one-sided, rather soulless experience against a team that barely did more than cannon fodder was.
That was three points and on Sunday we will continue to Albania in Tirana.
It was a “fairy tale” – what they said
England boss Gareth Southgate speaks to ITV: “We did the best we could. I was very happy with the way we pressed when we lost the ball – it underlined the mentality of the team for the entire 90 minutes.
“Of course it’s an opponent we should beat, but I thought they did the job really well.
“There were many good individual achievements, it would be difficult to choose one.
“Mason Mount was excellent in the first half and set the tone. It was nice to see Jesse Lingard looked like he was enjoying his football again – there were many good things.”
On Ollie Watkins: “The first thing you saw was the reaction from the rest of the team, showing you how together they are – they know what it means to him. He settled in with the group very quickly.
“He’s a really humble boy and it was nice to be able to give him half an hour or so. It’s a fairy tale for him to achieve a goal, isn’t it?”
Sterling hits 150th career goal – the stats
- England have won all seven games against San Marino by a total of 42-1.
- San Marino has lost 140 of its 143 qualifying games for the World Cup and the European Championship (D3).
- England have won their last 19 home games in qualifying for the World Cup / European Championship, scoring 67 goals and conceding six goals.
- San Marino only conceded more goals against Belgium (46) than in their seven games against England (42).
- Raheem Sterling scored his 150th career goal, scoring 136 for his two clubs Liverpool and Man City and 14 for England, 12 of which 14 were scored for the Three Lions in his last 14 games.
- Tonight, Gareth Southgate was 50th game as England coach and won 30 of his first 50, just as Roy Hodgson had done. Only Walter Winterbottom and Alf Ramsey have won more of their first 50 games as the English boss (33).
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin became the first Everton player to score a brace for England since Wayne Rooney against Croatia in 2004, and the first player with a separate surname to appear twice for the Three since William Bromley-Davenport in 1884 against Wales Lions met.
- England had 22 shots in the first half, three more than San Marino in their last World Cup qualification (19).
- Ollie Watkins became the first Aston Villa player to score on his England debut since Darius Vassell against the Netherlands in February 2002.
- Mason Mount had eight open chances in that game, most from an English player since Glen Johnson against Andorra in June 2009 (also eight).
England travel to Tirana to face Albania on Sunday March 28th (5:00 p.m. CET) before facing Poland at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday March 31st (7:45 p.m. CET).
- 2JamesReplaced byTrippierat the 45 ‘protocol
- 5StonesReplaced byMingsat the 45 ‘protocolBooked at 90 minutes
- 11AssembleReplaced byBellinghamat the 45 ‘protocol
- 9Calvert-LewinReplaced byWatkinsat the 63 ‘protocol
- 10sterlingReplaced byFodenat the 45 ‘protocol
- 13thGrandoniReplaced byCeccaroliat the 55 ‘protocol
- 20thdeerReplaced byMularoniat the 55 ‘protocol
- 8thGolinucciReplaced byBattistiniat the 71 ‘protocol
- 21LunadeiReplaced byGardensat the 79 ‘protocol
- 9BerardiReplaced byD’Addarioat the 79 ‘protocol
End of game, England 5, San Marino 0.
The second half ends, England 5, San Marino 0.
Tyrone Mings (England) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Tyrone Mings (England).
Nicola Nanni (San Marino) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, England. Kieran Trippier attempts a pass, but James Ward-Prowse is caught offside.
Corner, england. The corner was caused by Luca Ceccaroli.
Missed attempt. Cristian Brolli (San Marino) right footed shot from more than 40 yards on the right, misses to the right.
Foul by Ollie Watkins (England).
Dante Carlos Rossi (San Marino) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! England 5, San Marino 0. Ollie Watkins (England) right footed shot from the center of the box to the bottom left corner. Prepared by Phil Foden.
Missed attempt. Jude Bellingham (England) header from the center of the box misses the goal on the right. Assisted by James Ward-Prowse with a cross.
Substitution, San Marino. Alessandro D’Addario replaces Filippo Berardi.
Substitution, San Marino. Mattia Giardi replaces Lorenzo Lunadei.
Attempt saved. Jesse Lingard (England) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved by the goalkeeper.
Foul by Jesse Lingard (England).
Luca Ceccaroli (San Marino) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Missed attempt. Jude Bellingham (England) right footed shot from the center of the box misses the top right corner. Assisted by Ollie Watkins with a cross.
Attempt saved. James Ward-Prowse (England) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner.
Substitution, San Marino. Michael Battistini replaces Enrico Golinucci.