England have just one more hurdle to overcome in their attempts to complete their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a perfect 30 points as they travel to Vilnius to take on Lithuania on their artificial pitch.
Despite the limited opposition they have had to face for the most part in Group E, it will still be a terrific achievement for the Three Lions to end with a 100% record, particularly given the number of shock results elsewhere in the race to get to France. Another victory was secured on Friday against Estonia, a game lacking in thrills and spills but one that fulfilled the intention of gaining the right result.
Theo Walcott continued his fine goalscoring form with the opener on the stroke of half-time, latching on to a superb pass from Ross Barkley to turn home at the second attempt. The Arsenal man certainly outshone those alongside him in the front three on Friday, with Harry Kane making little impact and Raheem Sterling lacking the end product all too often, notwithstanding his simple finish for the second late on.
The side that started on Friday is likely to bear little resemblance to the one that begins Euro 2016, so this international week is providing Roy Hodgson with a good opportunity to assess his squad and try out different combinations. The friendlies coming up in November against France and Spain will give more of an indication of where England are at, with those games – while lacking the intensity – will be more of a test and replicate the kind of test they will face beyond the group stage next June, where they have sealed a place among the top seeds.
Lithuania’s hopes of qualifying for a major tournament are over, after they failed to pick up the win they needed in Slovenia on Friday to give themselves a fighting chance. With 10 points from nine matches, they have been competent over the course of this campaign, but lack the star names and the quality to trouble the stronger sides in Europe. They posed little threat when they played at Wembley a year ago, but the artificial surface may be something of a leveller here.
Hodgson will make a number of changes to his England side, with Jack Butland set to make his first competitive start for his country in goal, while Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones and Jonjo Shelvey will also start.