FAST START: England take on San Marino in first World Cup qualifier
England begin their road to Qatar on Thursday as Gareth Southgate’s side play their first World Cup qualifier against San Marino.
Following a rejigged schedule to the football calendar, the Three Lions will play three qualifiers during the international break.
A win is obviously expected against San Marino, a side who have won just one match in their entire history.
Fans are hopeful Southgate’s side will show what they are capable of against some beatable opponents as they gear up for this summer’s European Championships.
With several players receiving their first call up - and some being brought back in to the fold for the first time in a couple of years - these next three games will see an interesting mix take on San Marino, Albania and Poland.
Jesse Lingard, Luke Shaw and John Stones have been recalled to the squad, while Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins and West Bromwich Albion keeper Sam Johnstone have been given their first England call-ups.
England will be without the likes of Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho through injury, as well as usual number one Jordan Pickford.
Despite missing for Manchester United on Sunday against Leicester, Marcus Rashford is in the squad although he is likely to miss the first game of the week.
Having led England to their first Semi-Final in 22 years at the last World Cup, Southgate is looking forward to a big 18 months in charge.
After these next three matches, England will head in to the European Championships before looking to qualify for the World Cup next year: “I’ve been lucky enough to manage and get to a World Cup semi-final but we want to go further than that,” said Southgate.
“My thoughts are around getting the points that get us as close to qualification for Qatar as we can.
“Some big countries didn’t qualify for the last World Cup, the likes of Italy and Holland, so the process isn’t straight forward and we have to get these games right.”
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