London (AFP) – England secured their place at next year’s World Cup after a 1-0 win against Slovenia on Thursday after an unconvincing display.
Here AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the Wembley qualifier:
Southgate has work to do
Aware that England’s underwhelming progress toward the World Cup had left many fans cold, Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate saw his call for a show-stopping display fall on stony ground.
“It’s about time we show people a real performance,” Southgate had said, but in front of a half-full Wembley, England dominated possession yet once again looked sort of creativity and passion.
Fans were so bored they resorted to throwing paper aeroplanes from the stands and cheering a pitch invader.
England are unbeaten in 38 qualifiers for the World Cup and European Championships, but time and again they fail miserably when they get to major tournaments.
After reaching a sixth successive World Cup in forgettable fashion, few will expect anything different in Russia next year.
Kane feeds on scraps
On a red-hot streak this season, Harry Kane revealed this week that he uses a personal chef to ensure his meals are tailored to enhance his performance.
Well fed at home, the Tottenham striker was starved of service until the third minute of stoppage-time when he stretched to turn in Kyle Walker’s cross.
It was the 24-year-old’s first real sight of goal in the entire 90 minutes and took him to 14 goals in his last nine games for club and country.
Kane’s winner, on the night he was also England’s captain, ensured he was one of the few at Wembley who will look back fondly on this limp affair.
Sterling lacks sparkle
With Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli suspended for his crude gesture in a previous qualifier, Raheem Sterling was handed the chance to impress in the key attacking role behind Kane.
Sterling has been in good form for Manchester City this season, causing damage both in central and wide areas.
But the 22-year-old showed none of that class against Slovenia, lacking the composure and movement to make his presence felt.
Southgate had every right to feel short changed, but he has few options to find a replacement.
Rashford offers hope
Having emerged as a dynamic force for Manchester United this season, Marcus Rashford looks capable of becoming a genuine game-changer for England as well.
The 19-year-old was England’s lone ray of hope for much of the match as his pace and poise on the flanks unhinged Slovenia’s rearguard.
Having won a free-kick with a surging run, Rashford picked himself up and almost broke the deadlock with an audacious long-range effort that forced Jan Oblak into a sprawling save.
He went even closer when his lofted shot cleared off the line by Rajko Rotman in the second half.
Ox out of sorts
Not for the first time this season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain failed to prove his doubters wrong before being put out of his misery when he was taken off in the 64th minute.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has struggled badly since his £35 million ($45 million, 39 million euros) move from Arsenal to Liverpool just before the transfer deadline.
The 24-year-old fared no better on the right wing for England, lacking the drive and desire to penetrate Slovenia’s massed defence.
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