Harry Kane shatters records and closes on Wayne Rooney as England seal World Cup place

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Harry Kane shatters records and closes on Wayne Rooney as England seal World Cup place
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Technically, England’s place at the World Cup was on the line in San Marino but it quickly came to feel like records – particularly those concerning Harry Kane – were the only factors at play in a 10-0 rout.

Kane scored four times in 15 first-half minutes to move within five goals of Wayne Rooney’s all-time haul and make it 16 England goals in the calendar year, smashing a 113-year record.

Two generously-awarded penalties – both for handball – and two left-foot finishes saw Kane become the first England player to score four in a game since Ian Wright against the same opponent back in 1993.

England went in 6-0 up at the interval and added four more goals in the second-half for their first ten-goal haul since beating the USA in 1964.

Before the game, Gareth Southgate revealed Kane had characteristically asked to play against the lowest-ranked side in international football – who are now winless in 162 competitive matches – and for most of the first half it felt as though the game was solely being played for the captain’s benefit as he stormed towards Rooney’s tally of 53.

Undeniably, there was a certain hollowness to what was essentially an exercise in stat-padding, which further raised questions about the point of these matches.

Yet, many players would not have bothered to make the journey – indeed, many of England’s squad have not travelled and Southgate only had six outfield players on the bench – and you have to respect Kane’s insatiable desire for goals and accolades, regardless of the circumstances.

There is a good chance that Kane will beat Rooney’s record before the Qatar World Cup, which begins a year from now on November 21, 2022, and that is surely a positive.

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

He will have eight games in the New Year before the tournament – two friendlies in April, then six Nations League matches over the summer – to score six times after moving level with Gary Lineker on 48 in Serravalle. Southgate will not want Kane going into the World Cup with the distraction of being one or two goals from history, so his rout against European football’s whippings boys may ultimately help ensure that the captain, his teammates and the rest of the country are fully focussed on team success.

Spurs, too, may feel some relief that Kane has appeared to rediscover some rhythm and his scoring touch during this international break after consecutive first-half hat-tricks in an England shirt – the first player to do so since Dixie Dean in 1927.

While there may be frustration at the club at Kane playing an hour in both tonight’s game and the 5-0 thrashing of Albania, this was hardly a vigorously workout. In fact, it was more of a 60-minute stroll and likely less strenuous than one of Antonio Conte’s training sessions.

A good night for Arsenal

A well-taken goal on his first start for Emile Smith Rowe, a debut for goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and a bright showing from scorer of goal number 10, Bukayo Saka, made for a positive night for Arsenal, speaking to the club’s impressive rise since the start of the season.

When England convened for the first time since the European Championship in September, Arsenal were winless and rooted to the foot of the table, with Saka their sole representative in Southgate’s squad.

A few months later, and the Gunners are in the top four and boasting a squad full of youthful talent, underlined by the rise of Smith Rowe and Ramsdale.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The playmaker and Saka, who started at left wing-back and finished on the right wing, combined impressively in the first half, ensuring the majority of England’s attacks came down their flank, with Saka forcing England’s second goal when his cross was turned home by Filippo Fabri.

Smith Rowe and Ramsdale will, obviously, have to prove themselves in an England shirt against far tougher opponents but the club should be able to look forward to stronger representation in the national team going forward – another positive for Mikel Arteta.

What was the point?

San Marino were not helped by the officials, who harshly awarded England two first-half penalties for handball – the first after a lengthy VAR check – and sent off Dante Rossi in the second half for a second yellow card following a foul on debutant Conor Gallagher, who came off the bench.

Frankly, England did not need any assistance and, watching such an extravagant mismatch, you wondered again what the point of all this was – for both sides.

San Marino are the lowest-ranked side in the world and boast just one win in their entire history – in a friendly against Litchensutein.

This was England’s biggest ever competitive win and it was far, far too easy, with Harry Maguire, substitute Tammy Abraham and Tyrone Mings adding to the aforementioned goals by Kane, Saka, Smith Rowe and Fabri.

The ease of England’s win was embarrassing and raises again the question of why the likes of San Marino do not go through a phase of pre-qualifying to avoid this kind of ridiculous mismatch.

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