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England secured qualification for next year’s European Championship in France in style with a 6-0 win over minnows San Marino. Wayne Rooney equaled Bobby Charlton’s goal-scoring record when he notched his 49th for the Three Lions with a coolly converted penalty to open the scoring on Saturday, but was withdrawn on 58 minutes with the record still unbroken. Roy Hodgson’s men face Switzerland on Tuesday night assured of their place in the finals, with the only the protection of their 100% qualification record and Rooney’s personal record to play for.
Switzerland are still in the qualification fight themselves and this game is more important for them, as they battle Slovenia and Estonia for second spot in the group. It promises to be a much more competitive affair than the San Marino game in which England barely broke a sweat, and Wembley will be rocking as Rooney looks to make history on Tuesday night.
England have been imperious since the disappointment of the World Cup, and it’s a familiar story for the long-suffering fans who have seen England flatter to deceive so many times over recent tournaments. It’s common for the English to trounce the opposition in qualification, raising the nation’s hopes for the real competition, only for the side to perform poorly and struggle when the going gets tough. England have won every competitive game they’ve played since Brazil, and have only been held to draws in two friendlies – against Italy and Republic of Ireland.
That run of victories includes a 2-0 away win in Switzerland, which was the opening game of this qualifying group. England have won 7 out of 7 to amass 21 points, with a goal difference of scored 24, conceded 3. It was never going to be the hardest group to get out of, with Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino making up the numbers, but England have done everything required of them, and won every game fairly comfortably.
Switzerland are in second place with 15 points, but have lost twice over the course of the campaign – at home to England and away in Slovenia. They’re six points ahead of that rival, and five points ahead of Estonia who they are yet to visit. With Estonia and Slovenia set to play at the same time as this match, the group will be much clearer by the end of Tuesday night. The Swiss had to produce a dramatic comeback over the weekend to reach that position though, after going 2-0 down at home to Slovenia. They looked to be heading for defeat with just ten minutes left, but three late goals snatched an unlikely victory and put them clear into second position.
Having lost the first two qualifying games, Switzerland have won the last five on the trot and have only been held twice in friendlies by USA and Poland. They will travel to Wembley knowing that a point would represent a great result in terms of group qualification, but they are not a side to trust to defend in numbers and see out a 0-0 draw.
The Swiss have never won in England, and the Three Lion’s have won on three of the last five occasions Switzerland have visited. Rooney and Co. have also won their last six international games at the national stadium, conceding just one goal in the process.
Hodgson set to Experiment?
Danny Welbeck scored twice as England won 2-0 in Switzerland at the start of last season, but he is absent after a knee injury ruled him out until the new year. With Daniel Sturridge also on the treatment table, the onus is on Wayne Rooney to lead the line and score the goals – but so far he’s proven to be up to the task.
Roy Hodgson said he was pleased with the performance in the aftermath of the 6-0 trouncing of San Marino, and pointed to the fact that they have three games left which they can use to experiment, which was not an option in the last qualifying group for the 2014 World Cup, as points were needed right to the end. Jonjo Shelvey earned the man-of-the-match award after an impressive display in the withdrawn midfield role for England, and he has probably earned himself another chance to shine on Tuesday night. Harry Kane came off the bench on Saturday to add to his England tally, while Hodgson mentioned that one or two others may have the opportunity to make their mark at Wembley, having missed out on Saturday.
All set up for Rooney
All eyes will be on Wayne Rooney though, as he attempts to break Boby Charlton’s record to become England’s out-and-out top goal scorer. He’s already surpassed the likes of Lineker, Owen and Shearer, and can cement his place in England folklore on Tuesday night.
Bwin offer +150 on Rooney to score at any time, and that’s a price worth taking.
He’s England’s penalty taker, and with the record on the line, his teammates will be doing all they can to lay one on a plate for him. There will be no better place to break the record than at Wembley in front of a huge crowd, and everything is set up for Rooney to land the odds at some point during the game.
The one nagging doubt here is that England have already qualified, and there is a worry that the game will resemble an international friendly with nothing to play for. Hopefully the fact that Switzerland still need points, the desire of English fringe players to stake their claim for a place, and of course, Rooney’s record, will ensure that there is a competitive atmosphere.
England to beat Switzerland
Tuesday 8th September 19:45 GMT
Wayne Rooney to score at any time against Switzerland
Tuesday 8th September 19:45 GMT
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