The European Championship will feature an England team as history was celebrated in a match that could have ended 10-0 under the famous arch
In a week that began with a scrap in the England canteen, the Three Lions were able to seal Euro 2020 qualification without Montenegro putting up anything close to a fight at Wembley Stadium.
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Following his bust-up with Joe Gomez, England had to do without Raheem Sterling for the nation’s 1000th international game. But they barely put a foot wrong as Gareth Southgate’s side ran riot, scoring five goals before half-time before easing off after the break to seal a 7-0 rout.
If England’s players were still feeling any kind of shock following Monday’s events at St George’s Park, they did not show them, with Harry Kane putting in a captain’s performance to lead from the front.
The Tottenham star took his England goal tally from 28 to 31 within 19 first-half minutes, surpassing the international tallies of Frank Lampard and Alan Shearer, among others, along the way. No player has scored more while wearing the armband for England than the 26-year-old.
Either side of him, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were at their electrifying best to ensure Sterling was not missed in wide areas.
Rashford got himself on the scoresheet with England’s fourth of the night after Harry Maguire’s header from a corner was saved while Sancho laid on an assist for substitute Tammy Abraham – with whom he played in the parks of south London growing up – to score his first international goal late on.
It was not just the front three who proved a threat, meanwhile, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain marking his first England start since March 2018 with the opening goal.
Mason Mount, meanwhile, was slightly unfortunate to have what would have been his maiden England goal ruled out for offside before his scuffed shot was turned into his own net by Aleksandar Sofranac following some pinball in the Montenegro box. With two attacking No.8s alongside the deeper Harry Winks in midfield, the visitiors never stood a chance of keeping Southgate’s side at bay.
Having named what was their youngest line-up in 60 years, England rarely let up. Marauding full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Chilwell were constant threats in the final third. Chilwell even provided the assists for each of the night’s first three goals.
And while a small section of the crowd choosing to boo Gomez when he stepped off the substitute’s bench soured the atmosphere a little after half-time, on the whole this was an evening for England to remember its best days as well as look forward to potential glory during the summer.
The Wembley turf was adorned with some of the finest players England have ever produced at half-time as part of the 1000th game’s celebrations. James Maddison made his debut to become the 1,245th player to win a cap for the Three Lions, and many of those who he will have grown up admiring were in attendance to see the Leicester City man make his first steps at this level of the game.
Maddison may now well be part of Southgate’s squad as they go in search of European Championship glory in June and July. All three of England’s group games will be played at Wembley, with a potential semi-final, as well as the final, also taking place under the arch.
In all of their 1000 games, none even come close to the World Cup final of 1966 in terms of how fondly it is remembered. Of course, that too came in a tournament where Wembley provided the venue for the final.
England have since hosted a competition – Southgate does not need reminding how that ended – but Euro 2020 feels like the country’s best opportunity for some time to emulate the heroes of ’66.
With Sterling set to return, they have more than a puncher’s chance.