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Southgate milestone as England edge closer to Qatar 2022

England head to the Estadi Nacional d’Andorra on Saturday night knowing they are just eight points away from confirming their participation at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as manager Gareth Southgate celebrates five years in the job.

Southgate has now joined an illustrious group of former England managers in Walter Winterbottom, Sir Alf Ramsey, Bobby Robson and Sven-Goran Eriksson to have passed five years in the job.

It was five years ago on Friday that Southgate took charge of his first game, an inauspicious 2-0 home win over Malta, and it has been pretty much a continual line of progress since then.

‘It’s been nothing but progress’

“It’s worth remembering the circumstances in which Southgate took over,” says Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett.

“England were in turmoil: Sam Allardyce had had just one game in charge before his ignominious departure and just months before that, England had been knocked out of the Euros in humiliating fashion by Iceland – one of the worst days of England’s footballing history, you’d have to say.

“Since then, it’s been nothing but progress. Yes, his detractors would still say he’s been too defensive at times, but you can’t deny that he’s changed the squad.

“Only four members of the current squad played against Malta – Kyle Walker, John Stones, Jordan Henderson and Jesse Lingard – and the stats prove this has been England’s most successful period since Sir Alf Ramsey, when England won the World Cup.

“And perhaps there’s an answer to some of those critics in the stats: England have averaged more than two goals a game – more prolific than they were under Eriksson, Robson, Greenwood – and of course, England have reached the semi-finals of a World Cup and the final of a European Championship in the last few years.

“There’s been real, real progress – and perhaps the biggest achievement is how Southgate has made this team so likeable.”

Gareth Southgate's England record ahead of the World Cup Qualifier in Andorra

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Gareth Southgate’s England record ahead of the World Cup Qualifier in Andorra

Southgate’s attacking dilemma

Much of the pre-match talk has centered around who will start up front and how Southgate can fit the Man City trio of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling into his three-man forward line.

“Foden has been Man City’s best player so far this season, plain and simple and it looks like he has fully recovered from that foot injury he had at the start of the season,” said Dorsett.

“Grealish, meanwhile, has started every single one of City’s seven Premier League games this season – one goal and one assist.

“Pep Guardiola has used Foden and Grealish – and Gabriel Jesus – as part of a very fluid front three and they all swap roles, with Grealish and Foden both playing as the false No 9 at times, which makes it very difficult to defend against at times.

“Do not expect Southgate to do that as he has one of the best No 9s in the world, and trying to get Foden, Grealish and Raheem Sterling all on the pitch at the same time is very, very difficult.

“Sterling has had less game time at City this season, being on the bench five times out of seven, but for England he has been outstanding – 70 caps, 18 goals, 23 assists and he is still only 26 years old.”

Will Kane start?

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Sky Sports News reporter Rob Dorsett has the latest from the England camp, as they prepare to face Andorra in a World Cup Qualifier on Saturday

Another of the pre-match debates centres on Harry Kane and whether the England captain will retain his place in attack after a slow start to the season with Tottenham.

“There are two ways Southgate can approach this match,” Dorsett said. “Will he start with his strongest XI in the hope they will get a few goals ahead and then he can rest some of those players for the more difficult game to come at home to Hungary on Tuesday night?

“Or will he give some of the second string more of a runout, the likes of Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings?

“Kane is an interesting one as he is yet to score a Premier League goal and we know he has had these ankle problems, two injuries before, and the 3G surface here is not the best.”

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Sky Sports News’ Rob Dorsett says Gareth Southgate is expected to ring the changes for England’s World Cup Qualifier against Andorra on Saturday

When can England qualify for World Cup?

England need just three more wins to be sure of qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, starting with Saturday’s clash in Andorra.

Gareth Southgate’s side are currently four points clear of second-placed Albania at the top of Group I after six matches, with just four fixtures left to play.

England travel to Andorra on Saturday evening, then host fourth-placed Hungary at Wembley on Tuesday night – and they finish their qualifying campaign by entertaining Albania on November 12, before travelling to bottom-of-the-table San Marino three days later.

Victories in England’s next three clashes would give them an unassailable lead at the top of the group, although should Albania drop points in either of their next two fixtures, in Budapest and at home to Poland, then Southgate’s side could confirm qualification by winning their upcoming matches with Andorra and Hungary if other results also go their way.

Team news: Tripper to captain England

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Sky Sports News’ Rob Dorsett confirms that Kieran Trippier is set to captain England against Andorra in their World Cup Qualifier on Saturday

Kieran Trippier will captain England against Andorra on Saturday night, Sky Sports News understands.

It will only be the second time the Atletico Madrid full-back has skippered his country after also leading them against Wales 12 months ago.

And that decision suggests that neither Kane nor Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson will start on Saturday.

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Jesse Lingard admits he was disappointed not to be selected for England’s Euro 2020 squad, but insists his omission increased his hunger and motivation

Ref Watch – All-female officiating team named for Saturday’s Qualifier

An all-female refereeing team will take charge of England’s World Cup Qualifier in Andorra on Saturday.

Kateryna Monzul has been named as the referee, along with fellow Ukrainian assistant referees Maryna Striletska and Svitlana Grushko.

The VAR is Stephanie Frappart of France, however the fourth official and assistant VAR are both male – Denys Shurman and Viktor Matyash respectively.

The historic moment marks the first time a senior England men’s game has been refereed by a woman.

Sterling wants to make history with England

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Raheem Sterling spoke exclusively to Sky Sports News in his role as an ambassador for GPS performance data company STATSports, where he reflected on Euro 2020 and how it has made England more determined to win a major trophy

In an exclusive interview, Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling reflects on his England career to date, one that has already spanned nine years after making his debut for the national team at the age of 17…

Opta stats

  • England have won all five of their games against Andorra, scoring 20 goals and conceding none, with all games coming in qualifiers for either the EUROs or World Cup.
  • Andorra are the only nation to have faced England as many as five times without scoring a single goal. They only managed one shot in their 4-0 defeat at Wembley in September.
  • England drew 1-1 with Poland in their last World Cup qualifier, conceding in the 90th minute. They haven’t gone two consecutive major tournament qualifiers without winning since losing to Russia and Croatia in November 2007, with those results eliminating the Three Lions from competing at EURO 2008.
  • After a run in which they conceded 14 goals in four home games – all defeats – Andorra are unbeaten in their last two home matches, a goalless draw against Gibraltar and 2-0 win over San Marino.
  • England have only trailed for eight minutes and 53 seconds across their last 16 international matches, all of which came in the EURO 2020 semi-final against Denmark. They have only fallen behind in two of their last 24 World Cup qualifiers, against Scotland in June 2017 (drew 2-2) and Slovakia in September 2017 (won 2-1).
  • Andorra’s Max Llovera has completed the most passes for his country in World Cup 2022 qualifying (82 in five games), though he only managed one completed pass in their 4-0 loss at Wembley. By comparison, three England players – Jordan Henderson (108), Conor Coady (105) and Tyrone Mings (100) – all completed more in the win over the Andorrans in September.
  • 36 of Harry Kane’s 41 England goals have been scored in competitive internationals – in England’s history, only Wayne Rooney (37) has ever scored more goals in competitive games than Kane. Rooney scored one every 154 minutes in competitive games, while Kane is scoring on average one every 118 minutes.
  • Harry Kane has scored nine goals in 13 appearances in 2021 for England – should he score again, he would become only the second player to have scored 10 goals in more than one calendar year for the Three Lions, having scored 12 in 2019; the other was Vivian Woodward, who scored 10 in 1908 and 11 in 1909. Both Kane and Woodward would have achieved the feat while playing for Tottenham Hotspur.

How to follow England’s World Cup Qualifiers

Follow Andorra vs England on Saturday, October 9 (kick-off 7.45pm) with our live blog, and watch free match highlights on the Sky Sports website and app, as well as the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel, from 11pm.

England then take on Hungary on Tuesday, October 12 (kick-off 7.45pm), with free match highlights also available from 11pm.