The promised land awaits for England at the Qatar World Cup in 2022

The promised land awaits for England at the World Cup – the Three Lions have cruised through qualification with ease but improvement is needed to conquer the world at Qatar in 2022

  • England can formally book their place at the upcoming World Cup on Monday 
  • The Three Lions only need a draw against minnows San Marino to book their spot
  • Conor Coady smiled as he dreamt of reaching the prestigious competition finals
  • Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale and Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher may make their debuts
  • England have been good in qualifying but more is needed to win the tournament 

Conor Coady did his best to be calm and strike the right tone, but, as a picture was painted for him, he began to beam and dream.

Though professional courtesy stopped Coady from saying England will beat San Marino in Serravalle, he and we know the country’s place at the 2022 World Cup will be confirmed around 9.30pm on Monday evening.

This is a gimme, the equivalent of having three putts from three feet to take the spoils. England have played here three times, scoring seven (1993), eight (2013) and six (2015). To give further context, bookmakers are offering better odds on England winning 3-0 than 7-0.

Conor Coady (right) has spoken on his excitement about qualifying for the Qatar World Cup

Coady is expected to start against San Marino on Monday in England’s last World Cup qualifier

For some, that achievement will be met with a shrug of the shoulders. England have moved comfortably through this qualification campaign and nobody has seriously considered the idea that the first winter World Cup would take place without Gareth Southgate’s squad.

So is this really an achievement? Coady, the Wolves captain, met the subject head on and the infectious smile immediately told you there was not one hint of ambivalence in the dressing room — nobody is taking this for granted.

‘It’d be right up there,’ said Coady, when asked where this would stand in terms of personal achievements. 

‘With what you’re saying there (about qualification being taken for granted), it’s not the same in camp. Every time we meet up, we’re excited about what we need to do.

‘We have spoken about it at every camp. We’ve seen images of what it’ll be like over there next November and December, and it’s important that we focus on how excited we have been. We’re at the end of the qualifying stage and (in San Marino) we can get to where we want to be.

‘I think it’s a massive achievement. It’s something we want to do as quickly as we possibly can and if we can get there (in San Marino) it’d be fantastic…’

Again, he was being polite by adding the word ‘if’, so it was put to him another way: at the final whistle, 3,000 England fans will be saluting Southgate’s squad for a job well done. 

How, then, will it feel to have that confirmation?

In-form Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale could make his first ever England appearance

Harry Kane is likely to lead the line, in an indication of how seriously the game is being taken

‘I’ll be excited,’ Coady responded. ‘I’ll be ecstatic. Absolutely ecstatic. It will be a proud moment to say you’ve been involved in these squads and getting our country to the biggest show on earth. That’s a massive, massive achievement for everyone involved.

‘People can speak about what they want but we’ve had a job to do over the past year and we’ve got to a point now where we can get ourselves over the line with a good performance and a good win to make sure we can get there as calmly and smoothly as we want.’

An indication of how seriously Southgate is taking this will be illustrated by the fact Harry Kane will lead the line. England’s captain usually sits out these kinds of fixtures but this is a glorious opportunity for him to get closer to Wayne Rooney’s all-time scoring record.

Serravalle will hold a little place in Kane’s affections, for it was here in October 2013 that he scored a hat-trick for the Under 21s in what was just Southgate’s third match in charge of that age group.

He was ruthless even then, shooing Raheem Sterling away when the then young Liverpool forward dared to suggest he should take a penalty.

Kane, as his old manager Mauricio Pochettino once said, is ‘a killer’ like Gabriel Batistuta and there is every reason to believe — injury permitting — he will have usurped Rooney before England play their first fixture in Qatar 12 months from now.

Manager Gareth Southgate (left) is not taking a win for granted despite being heavy favourites

Southgate was enthused about the prospect of giving Conor Gallagher his full England debut

England are certainly one of the teams who will be at the forefront to win it and the evidence of 2021 shows how progressive they have been; the international year began with a 5-0 dismissal of San Marino at Wembley in March and it would be appropriate to bookend it with a similar score.

‘We should never take qualification for granted,’ said Southgate, who is enthused by the idea of handing a first senior cap to Conor Gallagher, whom he specifically scouted in Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win at Manchester City last month.

‘There hasn’t been a lot of margin for error. We dealt really well with the games in Warsaw and Budapest, which were probably the key ones for qualification.

‘We have responded well to every hurdle across a calendar year in which we have had total contrast in terms of the quality of opponent we have played. The mentality has been good. That is why in 90 minutes and extra time, we haven’t been beaten.

‘That is a record we want to keep building on. We have got the best defensive record in Europe, in terms of goals to games. We are fourth in terms of goals scored and chances created. It is a good challenge to try and improve on it.’

And improvement is required if they are going to go on and conquer the world.

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