WILLIE Duncan (@Willie_Duncan) focuses on Sunday’s match between England and Lithuania.
England v Lithuania | Sunday 17:00 | ITV1
The record books will record that Gareth Southgate’s first defeat as England manager came in an international friendly fixture against Germany.
It would be something of a surprise, though, if the England boss lost even a minute’s sleep as a result of the defeat in Dortmund because all that really matters is that the Three Lions maintain momentum on the road to Russia with a win against Lithuania at Wembley on Sunday evening.
Edgaras Jankauskas’ side started the campaign well enough – they picked up five points from their first three games, including a deserved share of the spoils against Scotland at Hampden – but the wheels came off in Slovakia; Lithuania were thumped 4-0.
That result was, perhaps, a more realistic measure of Lithuania’s standing in world football – and that was further reinforced by a 3-0 thumping in a friendly against Czech Republic on Wednesday.
England looked like strong favourites to take top spot in Group F as soon as the draw was made and their solid start – 10 points from four games – has merely added credence to the notion that Southgate’s side will take their place in Russia barring an unmitigated disaster – especially given that it could be argued that England have already negotiated two of the toughest away ties that they’ll face – against Slovakia and Slovenia respectively.
Strong home record
England have a remarkably strong record on home turf in World Cup qualification; indeed, they have failed to win just one of their last 17 home qualifiers for this tournament, while you have to go back to 2000 – and the old Wembley – to find England’s last defeat in a World Cup qualifier, a 1-0 defeat against Germany that marked the end of Kevin Keegan’s tenure as manager.
Furthermore, England have lost just one goal in their last six World Cup qualifiers on home soil, winning each of those fixtures, while the Three Lions have enjoyed, at least, a two goal cushion in each of their last nine World Cup qualification wins on their own patch.
Lithuania’s last visit to Wembley – in Euro 2016 qualifying – ended in a 4-0 win for the hosts and it would be something of a surprise if Jankauskas’s men are able to offer much more in the way of resistance on this occasion.
Bet Stars offer 21/20 that the Three Lions triumph by at least three clear goals and that price could offer decent value for punters ahead of Sunday’s showdown at Wembley.
England v Lithuania – England -2 (21/20 Bet Stars)