Italy stumbles, Harry Kane shoots England in Qatar
European champions Italy missed the automatic qualification for next year’s FIFA World Cup on Monday after being held in check by Northern Ireland in Belfast, relinquishing top spot in Group C to Switzerland, who beat Bulgaria 4-0.
Italy had to match Switzerland’s result to qualify directly, but while Roberto Mancini’s side could only stutter in a stalemate, Switzerland went wild in Lucerne to book their ticket to Qatar.
There they will meet England, the team Italy beat in the UEFA Euro 2020 final in July, who clinched their qualification with a rampant Harry Kane scoring four goals in 15 minutes in a victory. 10-0 in San Marino.
“Qualification was won in Budapest, Warsaw, Albania and I must thank all our players and staff for a very good year,” said England manager Gareth Southgate. “The mentality, even in a game like tonight, there is nothing we can do about the level of the opposition, but the way we played was great.”
Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium, Croatia, Spain and Serbia also qualified directly from Europe. Yesterday another place was reserved for the Netherlands, Norway or Turkey, with the remaining places to be settled in the March qualifiers.
The same fate befell Italy in 2018, when it failed to qualify for the World Cup after a miserable cumulative defeat to Sweden.
“Right now it’s like that, we are struggling to score goals, we still have control of the game … It’s a shame because the squad should have been finished before this game,” Mancini told the Radiotelevisione italiana. “I have faith, let’s see March, but we might even win it.”
Italy rarely troubled the home side, only coming to life when news of Switzerland’s goal in Lucerne spreads.
Noah Okafor’s goal put Switzerland ahead three minutes into the second half, and after Xherdan Shaqiri hit the post, Ruben Vargas doubled the score.
Switzerland then had two goals ruled out for offside, but when Cedric Itten scored 3-0 after 72 minutes it meant Italy had to win by two in Belfast.
As Italy got more frantic and nearly gave Conor Washington, who had a scrambled shot out of the line, almost a goal, Switzerland scored the goal with Remo Freuler making it 4-0 in added time.
England only needed one point to travel to San Marino, the lowest ranked of 210 competing FIFA nations.
San Marino had lost 36 of their previous 37 World Cup qualifiers at home, losing the last 35 in a row with a total score of 146-7. The only non-defeat came in a 0-0 draw with Turkey in 1993.
This time they were unlucky to run into a hungry Kane who scored four goals in the span of 15 minutes in the first half.
The result was never in doubt once Harry Maguire scored the opener after five minutes. An own goal from Filippo Fabbri made matters worse, but it paved the way for Kane.
His first came from the penalty spot in the 27th minute, and he scored again with a scuffed effort five minutes later.
His second 39th-minute penalty completed his fourth international hat trick and his second in four days, after also beating Albania three times on Friday.
Two minutes later he produced the best of the field with careful control inside the box to score his fourth goal which took him to 48 goals for England, tied with Gary Lineker and behind only Bobby Charlton (49) and Wayne Rooney (53).
“Every time I wear an English shirt I’m proud, and when I score goals it’s one of the best feelings I can have in my career. Glad to be among these names,” said Kane.
Emile Smith Rowe, Tyrone Mings and Tammy Abraham and Bukayo Saka all found their way into the net in the second half as England closed their qualifying campaign in style, finishing six points ahead of playoff Poland. after losing 2-1 at home to Hungary.
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