18 November 2019 08:34
Gareth Southgate believes England are more advanced at this point of their Euro 2020 campaign than they were for the World Cup in 2018, when they reached the semi-final, as he relished the conviction that is running through his young team. The manager watched them round off qualification for the finals next summer with a 4-0 win over Kosovo in Pristina, a result that was gilded by three goals in the final 11 minutes and ensured they will enter the group phase draw in Bucharest on Saturday week as one of the top six seeds. Raheem Sterling stays cool as Kosovo warmth puts his week in perspective | Nick Ames Read more Harry Kane scored again, making him the first England player to do so in every tie of a qualification programme, while Harry Winks and Mason Mount registered their first goals at senior international level. "I would say that we're definitely further ahead than we were heading into the Russia World Cup but we made massive strides in this period [between the end of qualification and the tournament]," Southgate said. They've got the confidence to control games with possession and they know they're going to score goals.
"What we don't know, because we haven't had those tests more recently against the top eight or 10 [nations], is exactly how we're going to cope in those moments. Southgate admitted he did not know whether it was a good thing to be a top seed but there is no doubt that winning matches is a good habit. "The reality is we don't know how important the seeding is but, for sure, if we'd have finished second and got a stinker of a draw, then we'd be getting pelters," he said. The good thing is that whoever comes to play us knows they're in for a tough game. England's late flurry of goals puts gloss on win in first trip to Kosovo Read more "Our forward players and I mean, Raheem [Sterling], Harry [Kane], Marcus [Rashford] are so exciting to work with.
For everyone in Kosovo this was a special night, more than just a football match, and it was a privilege to be part of it." 5 Sunday's game was Kosovo's biggest since becoming a member of FIFA Credit: PA:Press Association But Harry Winks certainly enjoyed the Kosovan hospitality in the 32nd minute when he collected Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain's angled pass and was waved through by a static Ibrahim Dresevic to net his first England goal. The third goal was England's best, Sterling sending through Rashford to stroke home first-time, before Mason Mount added his first England goal after Kane had robbed Dresevic. They have scored a startling 37 goals in eight matches, including 12 for the gluttonous Kane. This team seems to get younger by the game — and is perhaps too inexperienced to win next summer's tournament. As for Kosovo — such a young footballing nation, who shone in attack during their 5-3 defeat at Southampton in September — they now visit neighbours North Macedonia in the first of two play-off rounds for a stab at next summer's finals.
Perhaps it's a good thing that the EURO 2020 qualifier between Kosovo and England was not of any sporting significance. For days on end, the Kosovan capital had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of their guests from England. "We did this out of appreciation for our friends who helped us with the creation of our state," explained Agim Ademi, President of the Kosovan Football Federation (KFF) when talking to DW the day before the game against England. The roughly 19,000 British soldiers in the KFOR, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force, maintained a strong presence in Pristina following the Kosovo War. They patrolled the streets and provided security. One famous picture from 1999 showed a British soldier breaking from his patrol routine to play football with the local Kosovan children. All things that have not been forgotten in Kosovo. According to Ademi, a second, more current reason behind the England-friendly displays, is the racist abuse suffered by the England national team during recent trips to Eastern Europe, most recently in Bulgaria. "We actually were discriminated for a long time we know how it feels," Ademi said to DW. Walking around Pristina it was evident that the appreciation of England so openly on display is not just a marketing campaign concocted at the highest level of the KFF, but ingrained in the lives of the locals. Simon and Les, two England fans that go to almost all of the Three Lions' away games, both experienced it firsthand upon arrival and were blown away by the hospitality of their hosts. "This is the best thing anybody has ever done for our country coming for football. Watch video 02:05 Kosovo welcome "brothers" England with open arms "I think we're playing it safe," said Trina. "Since we are a new country it's good to start safe with anti-discrimination and no hate speech, all of these phenomena. I think it's a good thing what we are doing collectively and it is sports at the end of the day." With the eyes of the world on their home country, Miellma was more concerned with first impressions and added: "We don't want to leave any bad impression because we're new in football, so I feel it's not very good for us to have racism involved. For all the joy and hospitality shown towards the English fans, it should not be forgotten that the relationship of Kosovo-Albanians with other nations or demographics within their own country are marked by discrimination and disadvantage. The situation for the Serbian minority in the country – roughly 13,000 people in the Kosovan population of 1.8 million – is still tense, even 20 years on from the Rambouillet peace treaty. The situation facing the Romani people, another minority group in Kosovo, is also precarious as they are disadvantaged when it comes to education, health and the labor market. So things are not always as rosy and anti-discriminatory as was made out in the build-up to Kosovo's game against England. The political tension surrounding UEFA's new member could keep the governing body busy next year if they're able to qualify for EURO 2020 by way of the play-off. In Serbia, Russia and possibly Bosnia-Herzegovina, who themselves are in the play-offs, there are two or maybe even three opponents that Kosovo will not be able to be drawn against - if they qualify. Because those nations do not recognize Kosovo, the UEFA statues will prevent them from being matched up in the group stages. However, EURO 2020 could see another meeting between Kosovo and England. ENGLAND ran riot with a 4-0 win away to Kovoso in their final Euro 2020 qualifying match. The Three Lions had already qualified for the home finals next summer - but the win over Kosovo means they go into the draw on November 30 as a top seed. Winks, Kane, Rashford and Mount score for England Wins means England one of six top seeds for draw Sterling returned to England line up