Top faced bottom in this final FIFA World Cup Group I qualifier, with visitors England only in need of a point to secure their place in Qatar next year. Versus San Marino, the bottom-ranked side in the FIFA rankings with just one victory in their entire history, that was an inevitability. It only took six minutes for the ‘Three Lions’ to take the lead, Phil Foden’s corner being met by Harry Maguire to make it two goals in the defender’s last two England games.
Bukayo Saka’s deflected shot off Filippo Fabbri made it 2-0 ten minutes later. San Marino’s evening went from bad to worse when Dante Rossi was judged by VAR to have handled the ball in the penalty area following Foden’s spectacular overhead kick, and Harry Kane made no mistake with the resulting spot-kick to score his 13th international goal in 2021, a new England record. Soon after, Kane had the ball in the back of the net again, dispatching an Emile Smith Rowe cross into the far corner.
Another penalty allowed Kane to net his third of the night, the captain smashing into the top corner to become the first player to score consecutive ‘Three Lions’ hat-tricks since Tommy Taylor in 1957, and he even managed to bag his fourth before the HT whistle. Smith Rowe got in on the onslaught after the break for his maiden international goal before the hosts were reduced to ten men when Rossi received his second yellow card. The resulting free-kick was headed in by Tyrone Mings with 20 minutes left to play. England went on to make it double figures as substitute Tammy Abraham and Saka benefitted from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s fine passing range.
The three points see England confirm top spot in the group, and they can now prepare for the main event next winter. San Marino, meanwhile, failed to record a single point during this qualification process and, although plenty of sides still have one match left to play, they have conceded at least six goals more than any other side.