With a routine path to Qatar 2022 now firmly in their sights, England return to Wembley for World Cup 2022 Qualifying action against Hungary on Tuesday night.
The Three Lions produced a five-star performance to ease past Andorra on Saturday evening, while their visitors succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to Albania last time out.
While a stadium fire threatened the postponement of England’s clash with Andorra on Saturday, the Three Lions were the ones to extinguish any fleeting Pyrenees hopes of a World Cup Finals appearance with a straightforward 5-0 win on the plastic pitch.
Gareth Southgate’s youthful and attacking lineup saw Ben Chilwell, Bukayo Saka, Tammy Abraham, James Ward-Prowse and Jack Grealish all find the back of the net at the weekend, with some of the Three Lions’ fringe players certainly staking claims for more regular roles.
With 19 points gleaned from seven matches in Group G, England have cemented their position at the top of the rankings with a healthy four-point lead over Albania and – barring a collapse of mammoth proportions – will book their tickets to Qatar next month.
Since that fateful evening against Italy at Wembley, England have scored 14 and conceded just one in four World Cup Qualifying battles, with September’s 1-1 draw with Poland proving to be little more than a minor setback en route to another Finals tournament.
Furthermore, the Three Lions are on a remarkable streak of 12 successive World Cup Qualifying victories on home soil, while they have not lost such a game at Wembley since a 1-0 defeat to Germany in 2000, making Hungary’s task all the more implausible.
Not even Hungary – the team that won the hearts of the Euro 2020 neutrals with dogged performances against France and Germany – were safe from surprise package Albania on Saturday, as Marco Rossi’s side fell to a 1-0 defeat to their rivals.
Chelsea’s Armando Broja struck the only goal with 10 minutes remaining as Hungary’s Qatar 2022 hopes suffered another bitter blow, and Rossi’s men are now rank outsiders to pip Albania or Poland to second spot and keep their World Cup aspirations alive.
After suffering their third defeat in four qualification matches, Hungary sit fourth in the rankings – four points behind Poland and five adrift of fifth-placed Albania – meaning that they cannot rise any higher up the table no matter what transpires on Tuesday evening.
Not since 1986 have Hungary qualified for the World Cup Finals, and that barren streak is set to be extended barring a miraculous turnaround in the three games that remain, but their victory over Andorra on September 9 represents their only win from their last eight in all tournaments.
England eased to a 4-0 win on Hungarian turf last month – although the encounter was largely overshadowed by incidences of racist abuse from a section of the home crowd – and it has been 59 years since the visitors’ last victory against the Three Lions, which came at the 1962 World Cup.
England World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
England form (all competitions):
Hungary World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
Hungary form (all competitions):
We say: England 3-0 Hungary
The despicable acts of some fans may have overshadowed England’s romping win in Hungary last month, but on the pitch, Southgate’s side were simply a class above and should have too much for their opponents with a well-rested first XI.
After such a bright start to their World Cup bid, Hungary have lost their golden touch since Euro 2020, and another Qualifying campaign is set to end in tatters for the visitors.