Seeking to maintain their 100% start to World Cup 2022 Qualifying, England step foot onto the Wembley turf for the first time since the Euro 2020 final for Sunday’s visit of Andorra.
The Three Lions dazzled and delighted in a 4-0 thrashing of Hungary on Thursday night, while the visitors claimed their first victory of qualifying over fellow minnows San Marino.
The despicable actions of some supporters once again overshadowed what was an otherwise joyous occasion in midweek for England, who sought to do what neither world champions France nor Germany could at Euro 2020 – beat Hungary.
Despite struggling to break down the resolute five-man rearguard in the first 45 minutes, England came out all guns blazing in the second period as Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Declan Rice made it four wins out of four in Group I.
However, incidences of alleged racism and projectiles being thrown onto the pitch stole the headlines following the full-time whistle, as football once again called on the authorities to do more to combat such transgressions, but Gareth Southgate nevertheless lauded the reaction of 18-year-old Jude Bellingham after he was reportedly the subject of monkey chants during the game.
Off-the-pitch matters aside, England are right where they belong at the top of Group I with 12 points from a possible 12 – scoring 13 goals and conceding just one in that time – and victory over Hungary represented their 12th from 14 games across all competitions.
No die-hard Three Lions fan needs reminding what transpired the last time their side took to the field at Wembley, but England had embarked on an eight-game unbeaten run at home before that fateful night against Italy and now welcome a team 152 places below them in the FIFA World Rankings.
After three expected defeats to Albania, Poland and Hungary, the visit of international whipping boys San Marino represented the perfect opportunity for Andorra to claim their first three points of Qualifying, and Koldo Alvarez’s side ensured that would be the case.
A centre-back by trade, Marc Vales netted two quickfire strikes in the 17th and 24th minutes to end Andorra’s 16-game winless run across all competitions and equal their biggest-ever victory – with previous 2-0 wins over San Marino, Belarus and Albania also on that list.
Incredibly, victory over San Marino represented only Andorra’s fourth competitive win of all time since their debut on the international stage in 1996, and they have now kept back-to-back clean sheets following a friendly 0-0 stalemate with Gibraltar in June.
However, Andorra’s winless run away from home stretches all the way back to a 1-0 friendly triumph over Liechtenstein back in March 2018 – losing 10 and drawing three on the road since then – and that success represents one of only two away victories in their 25-year history.
Unsurprisingly, Andorra have lost all four of their previous meetings with England without scoring a single goal, with the Three Lions recording 5-0 and 6-0 victories at Wembley in this fixture – the most recent of which came in 2009.
England World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
England form (all competitions):
Andorra World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
Andorra form (all competitions):
We say: England 6-0 Andorra
The gulf in class between these two nations could not be more evident, although Southgate will field far from a full-strength XI as he keeps one eye on the trip to Poland.
Andorra’s fourth-ever competitive win was reason to celebrate in midweek, but they should be brought crashing back down to earth with a humbling in the English capital.