England could become the first nation to qualify for Euro 2016 on Saturday as they head to San Marino for a match where victory is surely a foregone conclusion.
The Three Lions will ensure their inevitable place in the finals in France by taking all three points here and a win for nearest rivals Switzerland over Slovenia. Of all the other sides in Europe, only Austria in Group H have a chance of making it in match day seven, a feat which should not be underestimated given that some of the confederation’s leading nations have found this campaign something of a struggle.
The most difficult test came last time out away to Slovenia in June, where two stunning Jack Wilshere goals turned around a half-time deficit and then Wayne Rooney moved closer to becoming England’s all-time record goalscorer by grabbing the winner after the hosts had levelled. Given the nature of the opposition here, the skipper must be eyeing the opportunity of beating Bobby Charlton’s tally of 49 in the confines of San Marino’s stadium in Serravalle.
Manager Roy Hodgson is unlikely to learn a great deal about his side from this fixture, with the visit of Switzerland to Wembley on Tuesday providing a much larger test, but he will not want to deviate considerably from the group of players which have led them to maximum points from their six games. Fabian Delph has made a central midfield position his own, while Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka are the established first choice central defensive duo.
However, there are still plenty of places up for grabs, most notably the full-backs, with Phil Jones – absent here through illness – surprisingly fielded on the right ahead of Nathaniel Clyne in Slovenia. It is a matter that the management must look to resolve quickly, especially as they know that the real test of their credentials will not be until June of 2016.
All of the players named in the England squad are fit to play, with possible appearances ahead for recalled duo Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jonjo Shelvey. San Marino, who will be over the moon to have taken one point from their outings so far, could hand international debuts to Giacomo Moraccini and Marco Berardi.
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