By Danny Carrington
Last Updated: 14th October 2019
What better way for England to celebrate Gareth Southgate’s three-year anniversary in the Three Lions job than by securing Euro 2020 qualification at the quickest available opportunity?
That will be the reality if England can leave Prague on Friday night with victory wrapped up against Czech Republic.
Three points for Southgate’s side will make it five wins from five at the top of Group A – and will extend England’s unbeaten run in qualifying games to 44 matches, a run that stretches back to 2009, when they suffered a 1-0 defeat in Ukraine.
The fact that England have barely faced a side worth their salt is another story, and one that could come back to haunt them if and when they next come up against a top international outfit in a major tournament.
But they can only beat what’s in front of them, and that is what they’ve been doing, racking up 5-0, 5-1, 4-0 and 5-3 victories, with the 5-0 thrashing the result of their previous meeting with Czech Republic at Wembley in March.
England in the goals
Among those 19 goals for England have chiefly been Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, who both have six to their name in qualifying, with only Israel’s Eran Zahavi having managed more ahead of this week’s round of international fixtures with nine goals.
The Three Lions duo are in lethal form for their nation – Kane with seven from seven in all competitions and Sterling with eight from eight, that coming after a run of 27 games and three years without a goal for his country.
And you would back them to continue those scoring streaks in Prague, with Kane at 5/6 to net anytime and Sterling at 5/4.
While Kane and Sterling may be firing for England, the Three Lions backline can on occasion be a little less reliable, particularly so last time out in the 5-3 win over Kosovo when Michael Keane and Harry Maguire were both found guilty of torrid defending in the build-up to two of the visitors’ goals.
And while England may have thumped Czech Republic back in March, Jaroslav Silhavy’s side are a much-improved outfit since then with three wins from their last four – Patrik Schick bagging four goals in that time – meaning they currently sit just three points behind the Three Lions in second, though having played one game more.
That being said, despite this looking like a potentially tricky fixture for Southgate’s men, Czech Republic are 9/2 to win, with the visitors at 6/10. The draw is 3/1.
It should be a happy three-year anniversary for Southgate come Friday night’s final whistle.