Belfast Telegraph

England off to Russia but Kane's late show can't paper over cracks

England 1 Slovenia 0

By Simon Peach

Gareth Southgate says now is not the time for a post-mortem on England's sluggish 1-0 win over Slovenia which booked their spot at the 2018 World Cup.

The Three Lions laboured at Wembley and needed a Harry Kane goal in the third minute of injury time to seal their place in Russia next summer.

They hardly did it in style on a frustrating night where the home crowd resorted to throwing paper aeroplanes to amuse themselves, but Southgate wants to reflect on his side's achievement.

"We know we have to get better, but that's for tomorrow, tonight we as a country are going to the World Cup which is fantastic," he said.

"I think this team has potential, but we have got a hell of a lot of work to do.

"We came in on the back of the European Championships, they have had a change of coach, they have had a lot of difficulties to deal with through the campaign, but now we are there and we look to where we can improve all the time.

"We played a team who have only conceded four goals and you saw why, they defended resolutely, they broke the game up when they had to, they took yellow cards when they had to and we weren't quite as sharp as we would have hoped to be with the ball.

"But we stuck at it and it's not a coincidence that we keep scoring late goals.

"As a young team and having to deal with the expectation and criticism of their performances, it is tough for them. They are giving everything they've got. They don't have Champions League winning medals between them. We have to give them the belief and the backing to help them achieve.

"We are not going to become Spain in the next eight months."

Man-of-the-match Joe Hart also reckons people should be smiling. Southgate's men relied on Hart to make a crucial save near the end with the score still at 0-0, but the goalkeeper is looking at the positives.

"We have qualified for a World Cup with one game to go, so it is really important that we smile tonight," he said. "England have qualified for a World Cup and that is a big deal.

"The guys were brilliant today, we wore them down. It's difficult, these games are difficult and to have Harry doing that in he last minute is a big feeling. We are really happy."

Goalscorer Kane added: "It feels amazing to get there, it's no easy feat, there's some other top countries around the world struggling to qualify.

"To qualify with one game to go we're all delighted, it's job done for us.

"We dust ourselves off, we have got another game on Sunday, we are not thinking too far ahead and (will) keep doing what we are doing and see what happens."

Meanwhile, England will start their World Cup preparations with friendlies against Germany and Brazil next month, the Football Association has announced.

The Three Lions will face Germany for the third time in less than 20 months on November 10 after the reigning World Cup winners secured their place in Russia with a 3-1 victory over Northern Ireland at Windsor Park last night.

Five-time world champions Brazil, the first team to seal their place at next summer's finals, will then head to Wembley on November 14 in what is another 8pm kick-off. It is understood a trip to Holland has been lined-up in March, with the FA now able to start rubber-stamping tournament preparations that are well under way.

England: Hart, Walker, Stones, Cahill, Bertrand, Henderson, Dier, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Lingard, 63 mins), Sterling (Keane, 85 mins), Kane, Rashford. Unused subs: Butland, Smalling, Trippier, Maguire, Cresswell, Defoe, Livermore, Sturridge, Winks, Pickford.

Slovenia: Oblak, Struna, Mevlja, Cesar,Jokic,Rotman (Matavz, 79 mins), Ilicic, Krhin, Bezjak (Repas, 72 mins),Sporar (Birsa, 55 mins), Verbic. Unused subs: Belec, Koprivec, Skubic, Viler, Sirok, Kurtic, Mlinar, Bohar, Vetrih.

Man of the match: Joe Hart

Match rating: 5/10

Referee: Felix Zwayer (Germany).

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph