England qualify for World Cup after late Kane goal

Harry Kane scores for England against Slovenia

Tottenham’s Harry Kane captained England for the first time in his career

Harry Kane’s injury-time winner secured England’s qualification for next summer’s World Cup with victory against Slovenia – but this was a display designed to dampen any sense of expectation.

Kane, England captain for the night, bundled in Kyle Walker’s cross for his 11th goal in 22 international appearances to finally break down Slovenia’s resistance as they looked likely to hold out for a point.

It meant manager Gareth Southgate can now start planning in earnest for Russia but could not cover up the cracks in an England performance that was lifeless, uninspired and mediocre.

Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling almost broke the deadlock before Kane made his breakthrough, the hosts were also grateful to much-criticised keeper Joe Hart for some crucial interventions.

England and Southgate have achieved their goal. It was not, however, achieved in a manner that will start alarm bells ringing for any future World Cup opposition.

Elsewhere in the group, Scotland kept their qualifying hopes alive in dramatic fashion as a late Martin Skrtel own goal gave them victory over 10-man Slovakia at Hampden Park.

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England top Group F by six points from second-placed Scotland with one match left

England through but no celebrations

England’s qualification for Russia was confirmed by that late strike from Kane but Wembley was hardly awash with joyous scenes at the final whistle.

And that was because, for the large part, this was a desperately poor England performance as they struggled to find a way through a well-drilled Slovenia.

England’s poor performance drew mockery and sarcasm from some sections of a dissatisfied Wembley crowd, clearly unimpressed by what they were witnessing.

Southgate said he was aware of the crowd’s discontent and the unhappy mood of England’s supporters meant there was an absence of the air of celebration that normally accompanies World Cup qualification.

The scale of the excitement – or lack of it – on offer was illustrated by the fact many England’s fans spent most of the second half amusing themselves by hurling paper aeroplanes at each other.

It was also an atmosphere tempered by the reality of England’s current standing apart from the elite of the international game.

England carry a forward threat in the shape of Kane and Rashford, who will be supplemented by Dele Alli when he is free from suspension, but the glaring lack of creativity elsewhere – especially in central midfield – must represent a real concern for Southgate.

Southgate has achieved phase one of the task presented to him when he succeeded Sam Allardyce, but on this evidence England will not travel to Russia accompanied by any serious weight of expectation.

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Southgate’s England strictly B-list

England, as usual, have come through qualifying in relative comfort – but they have made very heavy weather of completing the job at some stages of this campaign.

The 4-0 victory margin in Malta was hugely flattering – helped by three goals in the closing minutes against exhausted opponents – and England came from behind to beat Slovakia at Wembley.

And this was a dreadful, lifeless slog that confirmed England’s strictly ‘B-list’ status in international football’s pecking order.

The team must make a huge leap from the workmanlike and largely uninspired efforts of this campaign if they are to make even a single bead of sweat break out on the brows of any potential opponents in Russia.

And those countries who travel with serious hope of winning the World Cup will certainly have no fears should they be confronted by this England side.

How many more chances for Oxlade-Chamberlain?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was replaced by Jesse Lingard in the 64th minute

Southgate’s selection of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in Alli’s absence was a real show of faith in Liverpool’s £35m signing from Arsenal – and totally at odds with his poor form this season.

Sadly for Oxlade-Chamberlain, he was unable to repay England’s manager and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Jesse Lingard after 64 minutes.

There was no shortage of effort from the 24-year-old but he looked a player short on confidence and self-belief, still battling to come anywhere near fulfilling the promise he showed after he burst on the England scene as a teenager.

Southgate clearly has great belief in the midfielder, also starting him in the recent qualifiers in Malta and at home to Slovakia – but his struggles have been reflected in his failure to complete both of those games, as well as this meeting with Slovenia.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is now reaching a pivotal stage of his career where he has to start delivering for club and country. He showed no signs of making that transition at Wembley on Thursday.

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England 1-0 Slovenia: Harry Kane says England should be proud as a nation

Man of the match – Harry Kane (England)

Kane provided the telling moment of quality for Southgate’s side. While the match will be largely forgettable, Kane’s goal will be a memorable moment for the striker personally having skippered England for the first time.

‘We are not going to become Spain’ – what they said

England manager Gareth Southgate, speaking on BBC Radio 5 live: “As a young team and having to deal with the expectation and criticism of their performances, it is tough for them.

“They are giving everything they’ve got. They don’t have Champions League winning medals between them. We have to give them the belief and the backing to help them achieve.

“It’s not a relief, I always thought we’d achieve the objective [of qualifying]. Tonight highlighted where we are. We are not going to become Spain in the next eight months.”

Former England and Manchester United defender Phil Neville, speaking on BBC Radio 5 live: “England limped to qualification for the World Cup. The real work begins now.

“We will learn more when England play Germany and Brazil in friendlies in November than these types of game. There was not enough end product from players.”

Gareth Southgate’s England have booked their place at the World Cup in 2018. Choose who you would pick in their starting XI in Russia – and then share it with your friends using our team selector.

Live Text

Match ends, England 1, Slovenia 0.

Second Half ends, England 1, Slovenia 0.

Foul by Jesse Lingard (England).

Rene Krhin (Slovenia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Valter Birsa (Slovenia) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Jordan Henderson (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Valter Birsa (Slovenia).

Attempt blocked. Tim Matavz (Slovenia) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Josip Ilicic.

Goal! England 1, Slovenia 0. Harry Kane (England) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Kyle Walker with a cross.

Attempt saved. Kyle Walker (England) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Marcus Rashford.

Ryan Bertrand (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Tim Matavz (Slovenia).

Attempt missed. Jesse Lingard (England) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Marcus Rashford.

Attempt blocked. Harry Kane (England) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Joe Hart.

Offside, Slovenia. Josip Ilicic tries a through ball, but Tim Matavz is caught offside.

Foul by Gary Cahill (England).

Josip Ilicic (Slovenia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match (England).

Attempt missed. Benjamin Verbic (Slovenia) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Valter Birsa.

Aljaz Struna (Slovenia) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Jesse Lingard (England) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Aljaz Struna (Slovenia).

Substitution, England. Michael Keane replaces Raheem Sterling.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Joe Hart (England) because of an injury.

Joe Hart (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Tim Matavz (Slovenia).

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Joe Hart (England) because of an injury.

Foul by Gary Cahill (England).

Josip Ilicic (Slovenia) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Offside, England. Gary Cahill tries a through ball, but Jesse Lingard is caught offside.

Substitution, Slovenia. Tim Matavz replaces Rajko Rotman.

Offside, Slovenia. Bojan Jokic tries a through ball, but Benjamin Verbic is caught offside.

Foul by John Stones (England).

Bostjan Cesar (Slovenia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Corner, England. Conceded by Miha Mevlja.

Substitution, Slovenia. Jan Repas replaces Roman Bezjak.

Marcus Rashford (England) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41423558

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