A step closer to Qatar, without having to break into a sprint.
On an artificial pitch, England played out another win that could barely be called a real football match.
The only significance of this 5-0 win away to Andorra was the first international goals for Ben Chilwell and Jack Grealish, who will at least have something to remember from a match most people will immediately forget.
Perhaps the most accurate description of this game was that it was mostly a pleasant stroll through Pyrenean hills for the superb Phil Foden.
The playmaker both decorated the game and decided it, since it was his supreme passes that set up the first two goals that settled this game.
“Deciding it” is of course a relative term in this sense, since it was virtually inevitable that a team as good as England were going to score against a side as poor as Andorra. Such matches will doubtless prompt another round of discussion over whether nations of such size should be allowed compete at this level, or go through some kind of qualifying.
While football should remain as democratic as possible, that doesn’t preclude the reorganisation of qualifying campaigns. Such suggestions are among the better parts of Fifa’s otherwise self-serving and illogical plan for a biennial World Cup.
A fair argument could be made that the current qualifying campaigns come from a different era, when there wasn’t such a proliferation of European countries, and they could do with modernisation; something to make more of the games more interesting.
At the same time, one of the rare benefits of a game like this is that it gives a playmaker like Foden a blank canvas. That’s almost a literal description, at least in terms of the amount of space around him. He was left with metres around him to pick out divine pass after divine pass.
For England’s first goal – and Chilwell’s first international goal – it was Jadon Sancho who got the assist, but it was really all about Foden’s pass. He picked out Sancho, who had made the same run as Chilwell, to eventually pull it back for the full-back.
A similar searching ball for the second found Bukayo Saka, who hammered the ball into the roof of the net.
Again, it was like the players just had the uncluttered stage to try things. The Andorran box had been almost left vacant for the third goal. Sancho swept in an inviting ball, and Tammy Abraham – with the goalkeeper stuck to his line – just prodded the ball in from so close.
By the time England had two, and there was no danger of any kind of battle to get past, the players were just trying things and experimenting.
Grealish was looking to offer even more decoration than Foden.
Such moments inevitably brought fouls, and eventually a penalty for England. While Josep Gomes gave himself a moment to remember by saving James Ward-Prowse’s penalty, the pity was that it went straight back to the midfielder to finish. That was his second goal for England, and Grealish soon got his first. He just raced away and drove home.
The only regret for England by then was that more players didn’t add to the scoring.
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