Harry Kane and Theo Walcott were happy to prove a point after getting among the goals as England beat San Marino 6-0 to qualified for next summer’s European Championship finals.
Both players have been under the spotlight this season during barren club spells, but looked sharp after coming off the bench to complete the rout after captain Wayne Rooney had equalled Bobby Charlton’s goal-scoring record with an early penalty.
“It was great to get on the scoresheet, there has been a lot said about not getting on the scoresheet this season,” Tottenham Hotspur forward Kane said. “It was a great opportunity for me and when I got off the bench, I was looking to get a goal and thankfully I got on the scoresheet.”
Arsenal forward Walcott hopes to have done enough to get another opportunity to impress against Switzerland at Wembley on Tuesday night.
“These sort of games are where hopefully you can show what you can do. At times they played some good stuff, but it is nice to get the goals which gets confidence for the team. I have heard we have qualified now, so that is great news for us all,” he said.
“You have got to try to make a difference when you come on, not just go through the motions.
“There are 22 great players in that dressing room and everyone is competing for a place. But you have to do it at club level first, and when you get the opportunity like Harry and I have today, you have got to take it.
“But we will be judged on more difficult games, so when it comes on Tuesday hopefully we will be given our chance and can hopefully show our stuff.”
Kane paid tribute to Rooney’s achievements and said there is more to come from Roy Hodgson’s men, who have a 100 per cent qualifying record.
“It is great for Wazza to equal the record. It is a great achievement and we are all buzzing for him,” the Spurs forward said.
“The whole team played well, we got the job done, are the first team to qualify and we don’t want to stop here. We want to continue to keep improving and push on.”
Rooney netted a record-equalling 49th international goal and was later replaced by Kane.
“Obviously it is a proud moment for me to equal Sir Bobby’s record and my aim now is to push on, to help the team get the victory on Tuesday night and try to break that record to become the outright holder,” the Manchester United forward said.
England coach Hodgson confirmed it was pre-planned to give Rooney a breather.
“We wanted to protect one or two players. Some did not start the game, and it was in our thoughts all along we would try to keep Wayne on for 45 to a maximum of 60 minutes because also Harry Kane is another who needed to get some football, so it is a perfect situation, really,” he said.
“We have taken off three important players who will be important on Tuesday night, and some others did not even start the game and one or two others who were not necessarily in contention to start on Tuesday night have had good games tonight.
“Jonjo Shelvey really does deserve a mention to play almost as faultlessly as he did for 90 minutes. That was a good performance.”
New Russia coach Leonid Slutsky got off to a winning start with a 1-0 Euro 2016 qualifying victory over Sweden which kept their hopes of the finals alive with three games left.
Slutsky took over last month following the sacking of Italian Fabio Capello, and a first-half Artem Dzyuba goal set Russia on their way to a hard-fought win in Moscow.
Russia stay third in Group G but closed the gap on second-placed Sweden to one point, with leaders Austria playing Moldova later on Saturday.
Russia, spurred by a capacity 45,000 home crowd, started in lively fashion. In the eighth minute, Spartak Moscow midfielder Roman Shirokov sent the ball home, but his goal was ruled off for offside. The home team dominated, and in the 38th minute Shirokov back-heeled the ball into the area to Igor Smolnikov, who found the unmarked Dzyuba near the penalty spot and he kept his cool to send the ball into unguarded corner.
Hosts Ukraine made light work of Belarus to win 3-1 and put pressure on the top sides in Euro 2016 qualifying Group C.
Artem Kravets opened the scoring after seven minutes, before Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka made it 3-0 at the interval. Sergei Kornilenko pulled a goal back from the spot for Belarus, but it was too late to prevent Ukraine from beating them for the second time in qualifying. The hosts, who had Denys Garmash sent off for a second yellow late on, are third in the group.
Elsewhere in Group E, Estonia beat Lithuania 1-0.
Luxembourg chalked up a rare win over Macedonia, coming away with a 1-0 victory.
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