Wednesday 18 October 2017

Kane to rescue but win cannot paper over clear cracks

England 1 Slovenia 0

England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring his side's first goal. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring his side's first goal. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Sam Wallace

There were more than three minutes of injury-time left on the clock when Harry Kane at last reminded Wembley that for all the mediocrity the England team are capable of serving up, they do at least have one man who could make a difference at the World Cup finals next summer.

This remarkable footballer, the captain for the night, scored his 14th goal in the last nine games for club and country to ensure that the night in which qualification for Russia was clinched ended with victory over a country ranked a lowly 55th in the world.

It had been an utterly forgettable game until then, a crowd amusing themselves tracking the progress of the paper planes that were launched from the stands, until English football's most lethal goalscorer intervened.

Of course, one brilliant predator's goal from Kane does not change the 93 minutes that preceded it, in a stadium with blocks rather than speckles of empty seats and a general mood of 'So what?' among those who had bothered to turn up.

For long periods, Gareth Southgate's team had drawn little more than indifference from the home support and even at the end, there were very few around to applaud the winners of Group F as they left the pitch.

The attendance of 61,598 for Southgate's 11th game in charge will be competitive with most international gates around the world, but then this is a stadium that attracted 81,781 for his first game against Malta one year earlier.

England’s Harry Kane scores their first goal. Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
England’s Harry Kane scores their first goal. Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

There was a dangerous fading of interest at Wembley on this night, that at times threatened to spill into farce with a pitch invader towards the end before Kane at last scored from Kyle Walker's cross.

Impression

This is a relatively young side that Southgate has put together but as things stand they are miles off making any impression in Russia next summer and another tournament like Euro 2016 and the previous World Cup finals would be catastrophic for the English Football Association.

There is still Lithuania to play on Sunday in Ljubljana and then the friendlies against Germany and Brazil next month that the FA hope will drum up the interest in their team again.

Slovenia's Bojan Jokic (left) and England's Jordan Henderson (right) battle for the ball. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Slovenia's Bojan Jokic (left) and England's Jordan Henderson (right) battle for the ball. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Southgate's side will find out then how they compare to the best in the world but in truth they already know and there are only three friendlies left before he must pick his finals squad for Russia. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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