Harry Kane scored a hat-trick in the first half as England drove to the game 2022 World Cup with a 5-0 defeat to Albania, but Italy still have work to do to reach Qatar after a 1-1 draw with Switzerland. England need one more point to qualify mathematically when they visit San Marino on Monday, but boast a three-point lead and six goals advantage on goal difference over Poland, who clinched at least one play-off with a 4-win victory -1 over 10- man Andorra. The Three Lions can look forward to Qatar with confidence as they return in style at Wembley to form with all the goals before half-time.
“The first half was fantastic, as well as we played for a long time,” said England boss Gareth Southgate.
“We are the best when we have an advantage and it was a match that could put us on the brink of qualifying for the World Cup.”
Harry Maguire has a tough start to the season at club level behind him as the Manchester United captain opened the lock with a knockout kick from Reece James’ free kick.
Kane admitted on Thursday that he also struggled physically and mentally from the effort of England’s run to the Euro 2020 final, contributing to speculation about his future.
The English captain scored only one Premier League goal this season, but now has six out of five games for his country.
Kane kicked Jordan Henderson’s cross from close range before turning the supplier for Henderson to calmly win his first international goal on home soil.
England were high four in the first 45 minutes when Kane smashed his second from a close angle before spectacularly completing his fourth international hat-trick with a scissor kick from Phil Foden’s corner.
Kane is now equal to Jimmy Greaves as England’s fourth highest goal scorer of all time at 44 and has moved up ahead of Wayne Rooney with the most competitive goals for the Three Lions.
Italy pays late fine
The European champions, Italy, maintained a small lead over Switzerland at the top of Group C, but missed a glorious late chance to virtually qualify when Jorginho fired a penalty over the bar.
The Chelsea midfielder has now missed six colts for club and country since the start of last season.
“If he wanted to shoot, it was right that he took the penalty kick,” said Roberto Mancini, manager of Italy.
The visitors got off to a flying start in Rome when Silvan Widmer’s thunderous attack flew into the top corner.
The Azzurri equalized nine minutes before half-time thanks to a well-worked set-piece kicked in by Giovanni Di Lorenzo.
Italy got a controversial late kick after a VAR review for a pressure on Domenico Berrardi by Ulisses Garcia.
Jorginho also missed from the spot when the teams drew 0-0 in September and fired well off the target.
Italy have a two-goal lead over the Swiss on goal difference en route to Sunday’s final matches.
Northern Ireland is home to Italy, while Switzerland will face Bulgaria at home.
Scotland secured a play-off place behind already qualified Denmark in Group F with a comfortable 2-0 victory in Moldova.
Nathan Patterson and Che Adams on either side of halftime when Steve Clarke’s men scored a fifth straight victory.
Denmark beat the Faroe Islands 3-1 to maintain their 100 percent record.
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