Harry Kane scored four goals in England’s 10-0 demolition of San Marino on Monday as Gareth Southgate’s side made official their place in next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar.
In truth England needed only a point against the world’s 210th and lowest-ranked footballing nation to guarantee top spot above Poland in Group I so the only real question was how many goals they would deliver to mark the occasion.
Kane duly filled his boots, following up his hat-trick in the 5-0 win against Albania on Friday with four goals before halftime, including two penalties, swelling his England tally to 48 to move joint-third on the all-time list with Gary Lineker.
Harry Maguire began the rout with a sixth-minute header and Filippo Fabbri scored an own goal before Kane took over to put England 6-0 ahead before halftime.
Emile Smith Rowe marked his first England start with the seventh and even after Kane was substituted the punishment continued for San Marino who had Dante Rossi sent off for a second yellow card in the 68th minute.
Tyrone Mings, substitute Tammy Abraham and Bukayo Saka all got on the scoresheet in a farcically one-sided match that did little for the reputation of international football.
While the debate about the worth of such lop-sided fixtures rumbles on, Kane did not care on a night that had statisticians working overtime.
He took his calendar-year haul for England to a new record of 16, became the first England player to score back-to-back hat-tricks since Tommy Taylor in 1957 and the first to score four in a match since Ian Wright against San Marino in 1993.It was also the first time England had scored 10 in a match since a 10-0 rout of the United States in 1964.
In topping the group by six points from Poland, who rested Robert Lewandowski and lost 2-1 at home to Hungary, England scored 39 goals, their highest tally in a qualifying campaign. All that must be countered by the fact that as well as playing San Marino, who have won once in 186 internationals, England also faced Andorra who are not much better.
Things will toughen up from now on but they will arrive in Qatar as one of the favourites. “It came to the last game and we were expected to win tonight but we’ve done a good job. Fantastic to go through,” the 28-year-old Kane, who is now only five goals behind England’s record scorer Wayne Rooney, said.
Poland consigned to playoffs
Poland suffered a surprising 2-1 home defeat by Hungary on Monday, as captain Robert Lewandowski was rested, and will feature in the World Cup playoffs as Group I runners-up.
England’s 10-0 demolition of San Marino meant Poland were consigned to second place regardless of the Hungary result.
Paulo Sousa’s Poland side had already secured a spot in the qualifying playoffs for next year’s World Cup after a 4-1 win against Andorra on Friday.
Hungary’s Andras Schafer scored the night’s first goal in the 37th minute with a header from a set play.
The intensity switched after the break, with Poland taking more control of the midfield and stepping up the pressure. Forward Karol Swiderski levelled in the 61st minute with a well-placed header from a corner.
In the 80th, Hungary’s Daniel Gazdag managed to find an opening in the Polish defence and scored with a well-placed shot past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to put the visitors ahead.
Poland tried for another equaliser but Hungary managed to hold out for the victory in a game that saw eight yellow cards.