England’s Southgate relaxed over Albania World Cup qualifier

London (AFP) – Gareth Southgate said he never feared that England’s World Cup qualifier in Albania would be called off and was preparing for a tougher test than San Marino provided.

England cantered to a 5-0 victory over San Marino on Thursday and will be looking to maintain their winning start to Group I with victory in Tirana.

Albania also opened their account with three points, winning away to Andorra.

England boss Southgate does not believe Sunday’s game will be as easy as facing the world’s worst side and has called for a strong performance from his players.

“It definitely will be a tougher test,” he said. “They are a well-coached team, a very experienced Italian coach, and you can see the detail in the way they play.

“We will have to see whether they adapt to us but they play well with the ball and they’re well organised defensively, they’re well organised with their set-plays. So, as always, we’ve got to be at our very best to win the game.”

The game at the Air Albania Stadium was seemingly under threat after the Albanian Football Association said on Thursday it had been informed that local police could not guarantee the safety of the teams.

State police later issued a statement saying they had taken the relevant precautions for the match.

There are also questions over the quality of the playing surface but Southgate has no worries about either issue.

The England manager is likely to make a number of changes to his side, with Harry Maguire, Phil Foden and captain Harry Kane all pushing for starts.

Another player keen to be involved is Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw, who has not been capped since 2018.

“There’s never been any doubt in our mind of Luke’s quality,” said Southgate. 

“He’s obviously suffered from injuries and had to withdraw from a few squads, but it’s been great to see him playing on the front foot as a full-back both with and without the ball.

“He has been really ambitious with his attacking and I think that is important, he looks physically like he is in good condition to be able to drive forward, he has got excellent quality with the ball and it is a good moment for him.”

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