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England's fringe players prove their worth as Three Lions thump San Marino

England thrashed San Marino 5-0 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers
England thrashed San Marino 5-0 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers
ANALYST
Modified 28 Mar 2021
Feature

England have commenced their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a thumping 5-0 win over San Marino.

In recent times, the Three Lions have negotiated the qualifiers of major tournaments without any hiccups. That could be the case for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as well.

Gareth Southgate’s side were ruthless against San Marino on Thursday. For a team that has never won a competitive game, San Marino were expectedly drowned in an avalanche of goals.

The Three Lions put five goals past their overmatched opponents. Despite fielding a much-changed side, England still had enough quality and fire power on the pitch to cruise to a comfortable win.

England's fringe players come to the fore

Southgate rested some of his regular stars and handed starts to players who were returning to the team after a while. The likes of Jesse Lingard, John Stones, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and James Ward-Prowse all started against San Marino. And they did not disappoint.

Lingard and Stones look rejuvenated this season after it once appeared their international football careers were over. The former has been in imperious form since joining West Ham United on loan in January. Stones, meanwhile, has been a key player for a rampaging Manchester City side aiming to win an unprecedented quadruple.

On Thursday, both players grabbed their chances and impressed against San Marino. Calvert-Lewin scored twice, while Ollie Watkins netted on his international debut.

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Southgate currently has a large pool of players to select from. But those on the fringes have now proved themselves, and it could be difficult to drop them for England's next qualifying game against Albania on Sunday.

England's selection headache for the Euros

As things stands, Southgate could have a selection headache ahead of the Euros. The England boss will have to pick only 23 players for the tournament but has several quality players in contention.

On Thursday, Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier and Declan Rice were all on the bench, while Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were ruled out due to injury.

All these players will be competing for a spot in England’s final squad for the Euros, so Southgate could have a tough job on his hands to make his picks.

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“We’ve got players to come back from injury, and we will potentially lose some, so that is why we constantly track the players on the fringes of the squad,” Southgate said, as quoted by the FA. You’d hope that by the time we meet in March we will know what we have to work with in the summer, but history tells us that we might lose another couple before then. We are pretty clear on what it would look like if we had to name a 23 and an XI, though.”

The Euros is just a few months away, and there are a few spots up for grabs in the England team. However, this should be a ‘good’ problem of plenty for Gareth Southgate, considering the enormous talent at his disposal.

Published 28 Mar 2021, 00:34 IST
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