Frank Augstein/Associated Press
England will play their final qualifier for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Lithuania on Sunday, having already wrapped up qualification for the tournament.
The Three Lions secured their spot with a narrow win over Slovenia, and while qualification was the objective, the way in which the team did so didn’t make them any new fans.
Building momentum toward the World Cup will be key, starting in Vilnius.
Date: Sunday, October 8
Time: 5 p.m. BST/Noon ET
Venue: LFF Stadium, Vilnius
Live Stream: ITV Hub (UK), Fox Soccer Match Pass (U.S.)
England are still unbeaten in qualifying and expected to grab a win against Lithuania, a relative minnow of European football that has never qualified for a World Cup or the European Championship.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
The team’s best-known player is likely Lukas Spalvis of Kaiserslautern, while Fedor Cernych of Jagiellonia leads the team in scoring this cycle, with three goals.
England are expected to cruise to a win, and for the sake of manager Gareth Southgate, the team needs a positive result. He took the brunt of criticism after the narrow win over Slovenia, with pundits unhappy at the level of football. The Daily Telegraph‘s Matt Law was among them:
Matt Law @Matt_Law_DT
Just remember that according to @MattHughesTimes , Gareth Southgate is in line to get a £250k bonus tonight…
Despite their unbeaten status, England have lacked creativity and flair in qualifying, playing drab, dull football. They’ve beaten opponents thanks to their massive advantage in talent―but the gap is so great on paper, they should be embarrassing these kind of opponents.
Southgate’s lack of charisma hasn’t helped his popularity, leading to tweets like this:
Hard to believe that Gareth Southgate – a man whose nickname is Gareth – has been unable to motivate these England players.
With Dele Alli returning from suspension, the Tottenham Hotspur star should be one of many younger players to feature against Lithuania. Southgate is expected to rotate his squad a bit, starting in goal, where Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford will battle it out for a start.
Harry Maguire and Harry Winks could be in line to win their first caps, and their eagerness to impress should lead to an improved performance from the team. Alli also has some work to do, needing to impress after his suspension.
Prediction: A youthful England squad cruises past Lithuania. The visitors win 3-0.