A crucial time approaches for the England national team. Crunch time as we soon play Lithuania and double crucially, Slovakia away following our whooping of Malta and Scotland, it’s all down to this. But first, we play Cyprus in a friendly, conveniently for me this has been arranged away in Cyprus so a nice little holiday for me.

Before I can get on the beach and some halloumi, I need to call up a squad. The only changes to the previous squad have been dropping Gary Cahill for Mike Smalling, replacing James Ward-Prowse for Phil Jones freeing up Eric Dier to play in the middle and the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is replaced with Will Hughes to buff out our creative options. With that announcement sent off, I’m off to the beach, then to some stadium some place, then back to the beach with another tray of halloumi (it’s from here, and that’s about all I know about Cyprus) to report on the result.

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In control

A B-team was rolled out for this one, with Will Hughes being given the 90 minutes. Even with this, we were always in control with Cyprus causing very few problems. Theo Walcott picked up the man of the match with a goal and an assist repaying my (never ending) faith with him, Phil Jones also impressed.

An encouraging performance away from home that also allowed us to rest key players ahead of the double header.

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So now, of the beach after eating my weight in halloumi (did you know halloumi was first created during the Medieval Byzantine period?), we head into CRUNCH TIME!

First, Lithuania at Wembley, a game we should win but then again England should’ve won the world cup in 2002 and Ronaldinho happened, not saying Lithuania have Ronaldinho, but it’s not like we have Paul Scholes and Darius Vassell? That squad wasn’t as good as I remember it being.

Here is the team for today’s game:

 

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Walcott… I believe in you

A few changes to the team due to players being close to suspension and returning from injury. Rashford, Rose and Dier have been kept on the sideline as they are a yellow away from suspension, whilst Wilshere, Stones, Clyne and Henderson are risked, a yellow for any of them meaning they are out against Slovakia. Kane is rested as he is recovering from a knock, if needed he is capable of twenty-or-so minutes.

Anyway, into the match this eleven goes.

 

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Breaking the bus

 

 

Once again we are in control. It did, however, take us a while to break through, with Walcott perhaps most guilty, missing two decent opportunities in what turned out to be a good game for him. Frustration began to build as we mounted pressure in the second half missing an array of chances before winning a penalty from a corner. Stones stepped up to score and the floodgates opened as Lithuania were forced out of their defensive shape. A goal for Walcott followed after a nice pass from Dele, Rashford quickly followed suit scoring a volley from a Walker cross. Dele picked up the man of the match from what was a dominant display, Walcott caused a constant menace running into the half space between Lithuania’s left-back and centre-back.

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Onto the bad news, Walker is suspended, Clyne also picked up a slight knock but should be okay. Slovakia also picked up a 2-1 win against Malta, meaning going into the last game the table looks like this:

 

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Runaways

As you can see, Slovakia and Us are a class above the rest of the group, and in reality, it was always a story of us and them. To avoid the uncertainty of a second placed finish, which could mean playoffs, we need to draw or win away in Slovakia. Our defence and attack have been impressive in the qualifiers, let’s hope they can carry us through this last one.

The team for today’s tie:

 

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Crunch time

 

I have gone for a bit more solidity in the middle with Dier coming in for Wilshere and Henderson taking up play-making duties, this sacrifices some creativity but hopefully, allows more control. Elsewhere we have Rashford coming in for Sterling who disappointed against Lithuania, Rose in for a tired Shaw, and Kane given the start. Walcott retains his place after scoring in his last two.

On to the game, will we be playing qualifiers? Will we be out? Will we be off to Russia? Let’s find out.

 

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Looks like we made it…

We did it! In retrospect, I think we still would’ve gone through with a loss since we have an incredible goal difference. Oh well, we are through anyway, but it makes my nail-biting as we fought out a 0-0 draw look a bit silly. Nothing much happened in the match itself, a few chances for us, a few chances for them. We had two good chances, one for Kane and one for Walcott, both squandered. Slovakia had a few, all of which were well matched by Hart who wasn’t too stretched by any of them. The man of the match went to Slovakian full back Hubocan.

With that in the bag, we can look forward to a summer trip to Russia, and all the usual media nonsense in the build up. Will I allow the WAGs to come along? Will the fact I consult a psychic for tactics come up? Will my having a cup of tea with every match earn me a nickname? Mr Tea? Please?

I guess only time will tell. Next time we will be seeing just who we have coming, a look at the preparation and how qualifying went around the world. Most importantly, we need to decide on our world cup song… Probably gonna have to be this classic.

Till next time.

alan-shearer

 

 

 

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