England ease to Euros spot

England have booked their place at Euro 2016 thanks to a comfortable 6-0 win against San Marino. Wayne Rooney joined Bobby Charlton on 49 England goals, whilst there was also a brace from Theo Walcott as well as goals from Ross Barkley and Harry Kane. This will be a relief for Roy Hodgson, as this squad in particular has been described by many as England’s worst ever. Despite this, England have qualified with three games remaining, a feat that no England team has previously achieved.

Rooney's goal leaves him on an identical record with Bobby Charlton, 106 caps, 49 goals

Rooney’s goal leaves him on an identical record with Bobby Charlton (106 caps, 49 goals)

England started brightly, with Jonjo Shelvey demanding plenty of the ball and dictating play. Only eleven minutes had been played when they broke through, albeit in controversial circumstances. San Marino players were left bewildered after the referee awarded England a penalty, despite John Stones handling from the free kick. However, both Stones and Phil Jagielka appeared to have been held back, so the hosts could have no complaints. Captain Wayne Rooney stepped up, and sent the keeper the wrong way to become England’s joint top goal-scorer.

England went two up through an own goal, as Luke Shaw delivered an inviting cross, which Brolli could only glance past his own keeper. San Marino’s keeper Simoncini managed to keep the score at 2-0 going in to the break, first denying Rooney his second, and then producing a fantastic save just before half time, diverting the ball over when Oxlade-Chamberlain looked certain to score from six yards.

It didn’t take long after the break for England to extend their lead, just fourteen seconds in fact. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain reached the byline before delivering a cross straight to an unmarked Ross Barkley, who headed home his first England goal from six yards. It would not be a record breaking evening though, as Rooney was brought off with half an hour remaing. After the game, Hodgson confirmed that it was just a precaution given the state of the pitch, but the striker would have been confident of adding to his early strike.

Harry Kane produced a magnificent chip to open his account this season

Harry Kane produced a magnificent chip to open his account this season

The game was well and truly sealed as England added three more goals in just over ten minutes. Theo Walcott, less than a minute after coming on, met a driven cross from Fabian Delph to convert at the far post. Harry Kane produced a delicious finish to open his account for the season, breaking the offside trap to latch on to Shelvey’s ball through and chip over the onrushing keeper. Walcott added his second a minute later, placing in to the bottom corner after a being set through by Ross Barkley.

Walcott should have completed his hat-trick with ten minutes left, shooting wide after latching on to a gallivanting John Stones’ pass. Harry Kane could also have added to the scoreline, but he struggled to control the bouncing ball as he tried to round the keeper, who dealt with the danger well. Joe Hart was forced in to a late save, as Della Valle cut in on to his left foot but curled it straight to the England stopper.

Although it’s hard to gauge a performance against San Marino, there were some shining lights. Jonjo Shelvey continued his club form, proving a competent replacement for Jack Wilshere, whilst Ross Barkley also showed glimpses of quality through the middle. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked a lot stronger when he stuck to the wing, whilst Luke Shaw’s performance will do his push to be first choice at left back no harm. However Jamie Vardy did not look England quality. Although a willing runner, he was never heavily involved, with his only real involvement being two clashes of heads with Brolli.d

Player Ratings:

Hart 6; Clyne 7, Stones 6, Jagielka 6, Shaw 8; Shelvey 8, Milner 7 (Delph, 58, 7), Barkley 8; Oxlade-Chamberlain 8 (Walcott, 67, 8), Vardy 6, Rooney 7 (Kane, 58, 7)

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World Cup 2014 preview – Groups E-H

In the second half of this World Cup preview, groups E-H will be analysed, as well as a few tips for the tournament overall. In this half of the draw Argentina and Germany will have the highest hopes, with France, Portugal and Belgium all looking to reach the latter stages.

Group E Image

France have arguably got themselves an easy draw again. Ecuador and Honduras proved stern competition for England in the warm up matches, however this will not be in a friendly and France have a bit more quality up front than England. Karim Benzema will be leading the line for France, and the promising Antoine Griezmann (above) will be an exciting player to watch. Without Samir Nasri and the injured Franck Ribery the French dressing room will be more together than in South Africa. Ecuador proved against England that they will be no pushovers, playing an exciting brand of football via the wings. The are well suited to South American conditions, which may put them ahead of the Alpine-based Switzerland. The Swiss have some talented players in the form of Tranquillo Barnetta, Xherdan Shaqiri, Gökhan Inler and Haris Seferovic, but they are unlikely to be utilised to their full attacking potential. As always the Swiss will be solid at the back, with Juventus full back Lichtsteiner the pick of the defenders. Honduras will be there to make up the numbers, defending for their lives to claim 0-0 draws and chopping down their opponents.

Qualifiers: France (9 points), Ecuador (4 points – on goal difference)

Group F

ImageArgentina also have a fairly straightforward path through the group stages, with their group containing Nigeria, Iran and World Cup débutantes Bosnia-Herzergovia. Argentina’s attack is so strong that they could afford to leave Carlos Tevez at home, whilst still boasting Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and of course Lionel Messi. They have a relatively strong defence as well, with Mascherano acting as either a defensive midfielder or a centre back and Zabaleta and Demichelis being part of a strong title winning Manchester City defence. Bosnia could prove a stern test for their opponents at this tournament. Only Germany, Netherlands and England scored more goals in qualifying than Bosnia, whose main goal threat will be Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko. They also have the impressive Roma midfielder Pjanic and Stoke’s dependable ‘keeper Asmir Begovic. Nigeria have the potential to progress, after winning the African Nations Cup. The squad is top heavy with strikers so you can expect goals at both ends when they play. Iran will be the whipping boys of this group, and will go home without scoring a goal.

Qualifiers: Argentina (9 points), Bosnia-Herzergovia (6 points)

Group G

ImageAnother contender for the ‘Group of Death’, Group G contains Germany, Ghana, Portugal and the USA. Germany would be the favourites for this group, and one of the favourites for the tournament, however they have suffered several injuries in the lead up to Brazil. Marco Reus (above), Lars and Sven Bender, Mario Gomez and Ilkay Gundogan will all miss the World Cup, whilst Neuer, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira and Klose may not be fully fit for their opener against Portugal. However the quality is still there in the squad to compete, despite the inclusion of just one out and out striker, Miroslav Klose. Portuagal needed Cristiano Ronaldo to single handedly pull them through in their play-off with Sweden. Their squad is reasonably strong, containing 3 Champions League winners, as well as Manchester United’s Nani, Monaco’S João Moutinho and Sporting’s highly rated William Carvalho. Portugal have to potential to go far in this tournament, but if they rely on Ronaldo to bring them through they may be going home rather early. Ghana should have been semi-finalists four years ago. A few of their players this time around are past their peak, such as Michael Essien and Asamoah Gyan. The Ayew brothers could prove some entertaining viewing, as they prove Ghana’s main goal threat. In truth though, Ghana aren’t the same team as they were in South Africa and will probably fall at the first hurdle. The USA have brought a young squad to Brazil, leaving out the experience of Landon Donovan. They will be there for the experience, but don’t be too surprised if they take a point off of the big boys.

Qualifiers: Germany (7 points), Portugal (7 points)

Group H

ImageTheoretically, Group H is also quite open. Belgium are hotly tipped to be amongst the contenders to win the World Cup, however this would be a step too far for this squad. Sure, they have an immensely talented squad, but do they have the experience to make the impact that everybody is expecting. Russia will also be expecting to qualify from the group, and they boast a strong spine, with Igor Akinfeev in goal, Denisov and Dzagoev in midfield and Kerzhakov up front. These players will have to perform, as the rest of squad may not be of the quality to push to the latter stages. South Korea could see qualification as a possible target. Son Heung-min had a good season in the Bundasliga, whilst Ji Dong-won, Park Chu-young, and Ki Sung-yueng all have Premier League experience. However, they may be seen as too lightweight and could ship a few goals per game. Algeria proved stubborn opponents four years ago, however they offered very little up front. Expect the same this year, with British fans noticing Spurs’ Bentaleb and ex-Rangers defender Bougherra.

Qualifiers: Belgium (7 points), Russia (7 points)

 

Knock-out Stages

Round of 16:

Brazil to beat Netherlands, Italy to beat Columbia, Spain to beat Croatia, England to beat Ivory Coast, France to beat Bosnia-Herzergovia, Germany to beat Russia, Argentina to beat Ecuador, Portugal to beat Belgium.

Quarter Finals:

Brazil to beat Italy, Spain to beat England, France to beat Germany, Argentina to beat Portugal.

Semi Finals:

Brazil to beat Spain, Argentina to beat France

Final:

Brazil to beat Argentina

Top Scorer: Neymar. A possible outsider for this could be either Antoine Greizmann or Karim Benzema.