LIVE: England Secure World Cup Qualification With Harry Kane's Late Strike - NaijaTikTok || 24/7 Naija Entertainments

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Thursday, 5 October 2017

LIVE: England Secure World Cup Qualification With Harry Kane's Late Strike

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 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, 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 games 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.
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. 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 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. 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. 
There are some England performances that take a while to get going, and there are others that seem to have nowhere to go and there were periods of the first half when this penultimate World Cup qualifier fell into the latter category.
The upper tier on the south side of the stadium was empty and even in this relatively new era of declining England attendances that contributed to a mood of indifference. The place was quiet rather than discordant and you had to remind yourself that this was an occasion when England were, one might safely assume, about to qualify for the next summer’s World Cup finals.
It was the lack of energy in the team that proved so stark and even Slovenia, for all their limitations, had some success in getting within sight of England’s goal. All the pace and all the threat for England came from Marcus Rashford whose speed made the flat-footed Slovenia right-back Aljaz Struna look like someone had sent him out on the wrong setting.
Playing out from the back, England looked shakey. Kyle Walker nodded a loose header to a green shirt. The playmaker Josip Ilicic chipped one across the England area and Roman Bezjak failed to connect with a volley on a ball that dropped over his left shoulder. Even against this standard of opposition, England never looked like they could string together the passes that would enable them to move the ball imaginatively and at speed from one end of the pitch to the other.
Kane was left to pick up what he could with his back to goal and there were only a few chances for him to work the ball onto that right foot and shoot. Raheem Sterling was another who, like Rashford, was regularly kicked by the Slovenians and he looked better when he could run at the opposition defence rather than when fulfilling the requirements of his No 10 position in the absence of Dele Alli.
There was one fair grievance from Slovenia when Joe Hart came out to take the ball away from Ilicic early in the game and, when pushing the ball away from the midfielder’s feet may have caught his opponent in the penalty area. Certainly Srecko Katanec, the Slovenia manager was upset about something throughout the first half.

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