No country has improved as much in five years as England

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In a year and a week, England will open their World Cup campaign in Qatar, the last best chance for this generation to win the biggest trophy of all. But if you want to get a feel for what England will do out there under the desert sun, you won’t have learned much from it. It was a horrible football game, a no-contest that should never have happened. Think about the qualities that make the World Cup what it is: the tension of the competition, the drama, the quality, the pressure and above all a deep sense of meaning. None of these were in evidence in San Marino. As soon as it was clear England would win and reserve their place in Qatar – five minutes later – the only issue of curiosity was how many goals Harry Kane would rack up. (Four, in the end, leaving him just five behind Wayne Rooney’s record of 53.)

Very little else seemed to matter, and when a slight sense of embarrassment occasionally set in, it was impossible to shake it off. The players continued to do their jobs and looked like they were having fun. But they can hardly have been less tested than this in their careers.

It’s a shame because what should have been a celebration of Southgate England has turned into such a farce. Qualifying for a World Cup remains a real achievement, especially in this last cycle where 13 European teams will qualify, only 10 of which automatically. England were drawn into a potentially tricky group and overcame it while other well-established sides including Italy and Portugal, the last two European champions, will take part in the play-offs next March. It is not easy to get an idea of ​​this campaign. in general. It started in empty stadiums in March (with a 5-0 victory over San Marino that seemed almost as pointless as this one), three months before the Euro which will naturally define England’s year.


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