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England vs Kosovo preview: Hosts can seal unbeaten decade of qualifying

England can put one foot in the Euro 2020 finals with victory over Kosovo on Tuesday, and seal an unbeaten decade of qualifying.

The team are unbeaten in qualifying for major tournaments since a 1-0 loss to Ukraine in their final World Cup 2010 qualifier under then-manager Fabio Capello.

Reaching tournament finals has become somewhat of a given for English sides since then - but that defeat in 2009 came only two years after one of England's darkest moments in recent history, when they missed out on Euro 2008 altogether after a shock home defeat to Croatia in their final qualifying game at Wembley.

England line-up for 1-0 defeat to Ukraine (10/10/09)

England: Green, Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, Cole, Lennon (James 15), Carrick, Lampard (Milner 46), Rooney, Heskey.

Subs:Bridge, Upson, Barry, Agbonlahor.
Since then, England have not lost any of their 41 qualifiers, and if they add a 33rd win during that unbeaten period when they face Kosovo on Tuesday night at St Mary's in Southampton, they will find themselves on the cusp of another finals tournament, six points clear of third-placed Czech Republic in qualification Group A with four games to play.
Anything but defeat will ensure England extend what is already the longest unbeaten run of qualifiers among European sides into its second decade, and well ahead of their nearest rivals Spain, who are 24 games unbeaten.
Kosovo's recent results show that may not be a simple task, however, after they came from behind to beat Czech Republic on Saturday and have not lost any of their four qualifiers to date.

England's unbeaten decade of qualifying

Played41
Won32
Drawn9
Lost0
Scored111
Conceded18
The country declared independence from Serbia in 2008 but did not play its first official international match until 2014, and picked up only a single point in qualifying for World Cup 2018.
But four wins from six in their Nations League group and the goalscoring form of Fenerbache striker Vedat Muqiri and Werder Bremen midfielder Milot Rashica - the latter injured for Tuesday's game - have rocketed the nation drawn in the same pot as Gibraltar and the Faroe Islands up to second spot in Group A.

England team news: Sancho to start

Jadon Sancho will start for England with Marcus Rashford dropping to the bench.
Southgate is also expected to change both full-backs - with Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold and Leicester's Ben Chilwell set to come in for Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose.
Southgate said on Monday: "We might freshen the team a bit, that will be important.
"We don't need to, everyone is fit and available. We need to make sure we get the balance right.
"We need to get the right attacking and defending profiles to make sure we win the game."

Kane 'can beat Rooney record'

Harry Kane added his 23rd, 24th and 25th England goals to his tally on Saturday to become only the 13th player in England history to score multiple hat-tricks for his country, and the first since Michael Owen took home his second match ball after a friendly against Colombia back in 2005.
Kane's trio against Bulgaria moved him beyond England great Sir Geoff Hurst in the all-time goalscorer rankings, and although he still trails its leader Wayne Rooney by some 28 strikes, Southgate has backed his captain - fitness pending - to break that record in time.
"I think it will just be about fitness and avoiding lengthy injuries - things that are out of your control - but I would think everything else is there to really challenge it," Southgate said.
"The reality of that is that there's a reason that only Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker and Wayne Rooney have got there, because it's such a hard challenge to stay fit, the number-one choice, focused, motivated for the long period that you need to be able to get the games and to get those goals.
"But if anybody has that strength of mentality, for sure it's Harry."

Beware 'crazy' pressing from Kosovo

Ahead of Tuesday's game, Kosovo manager Bernard Challandes has issued an extraordinary warning to England over the "crazy" pressing they will face from his side.
The 68-year-old Swiss coach stunned watching reporters at his press conference on Sunday as he shouted during an explanation of Kosovo's tactical approach to the St Mary's encounter.
"It's tactical pressing," Challandes said. "In a crazy game, it's go, return, go, go, go, go, go!
"Perhaps they lose the ball and we score, because gegenpressing is not only defence, it's preparation for a goal for us. It's, for me, crazy pressing."

How it stands

PWDLPts
England33009
Kosovo42208
Czech Republic42026
Montenegro40222
Bulgaria50232

1 comment:

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