Aiming to continue their 100% start in Euro 2024 qualifying Group C, England return to the Wembley turf to host Ukraine on Sunday evening.
The Three Lions defeated reigning champions Italy 2-1 in Naples on Thursday, while the visitors are kickstarting their bid for tickets to Germany this weekend.
Less than two months after becoming the greatest goalscorer in the history of Tottenham Hotspur, Harry Kane now stands alone at the top of the England goalscoring charts with 54 goals, leaving Wayne Rooney behind with what turned out to be the winning goal against Italy in midweek.
Following Declan Rice’s 13th-minute opener, Kane banished his penalty demons from the World Cup to double England’s lead before the break, but a resurgent Azzurri threatened a late comeback through debutant Mateo Retegui – Luke Shaw’s late sending off hardly helped matters for the visitors either.
However, Gareth Southgate’s side travelled home from Naples with a first win over Italy away from home in 61 years – earning a slice of revenge for their Euro 2020 final loss to Roberto Mancini’s men – and the Three Lions have already assumed their role as table-toppers in Group C.
Ahead of North Macedonia on away goals scored after one game, England take to the field at Wembley aiming to record an 11th European Championship qualifying home win on the bounce, having prevailed in 10 such fixtures since drawing 2-2 with Switzerland in 2011.
Since that four-goal stalemate, the Three Lions have struck 38 goals and conceded just four at home in Euro qualifying – scoring at least twice in each of their last nine – and Ukraine will need more than just fresh legs to put Southgate’s side to the sword here.
En route to the final two years ago, England sent Ukraine packing with a 4-0 thrashing in the quarter-finals, and the visitors’ efforts to redeem themselves with qualification for the 2022 World Cup ultimately failed to bear fruit.
Amid the untold devastation in their homeland, Ukraine took a giant step towards flights to Qatar with a 3-1 win over Scotland in their playoff semi-final, but a Gareth Bale-inspired Wales ended Ukraine’s World Cup dreams with a 1-0 win at the final hurdle.
Prior to stepping down from his position in January, manager Oleksandr Petrakov oversaw an indifferent UEFA Nations League campaign, as Ukraine won three, drew two and lost one of their League B Group 1 contests with Armenia, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland to finish second behind Steve Clarke’s men – failing to earn an immediate promotion back to League A in the process.
Now under the temporary tutelage of 41-year-old caretaker boss Ruslan Rotan – a former 100-cap international – Ukraine begin their quest to qualify for the Euros for the fourth time in a row, but pipping 2020 finalists England and Italy to one of the top two spots in Group C will be a tall order.
Nevertheless, Rutan’s side bring a 10-game unbeaten run in Euros qualifying to the English capital – having not suffered defeat away from home in such games since a 1-0 loss to Spain on March 27, 2015 – coincidentally the same day that Kane struck the first of his 54 goals in a Three Lions jersey.
England Euro Champ Qualifying form:
England form (all competitions):
Ukraine form (all competitions):
We say: England 2-0 Ukraine
Despite possessing non-jellied legs and a possible new manager bounce, Ukraine’s unbeaten streak in Euros qualifying should come to a swift end at the Wembley fortress.
While the scoreline may not be as emphatic as it was during their Euro 2020 quarter-final, Southgate’s squad could and probably should have scored more in the first half against Italy, and a routine home win should be on the cards no matter how many changes the England boss considers.